The hit-by-pitch that made tensions boil Sunday at Marlins Park broke a bone in Josh Harrison's left hand, the Pirates announced Monday afternoon. Harrison was hit by a 96.5 mph fastball from Jose Ureña in the third inning and promptly the left the game.
Todd Tomczyk, the Pirates' director of sports medicine, told reporters after the Pirates' 7-3 victory that Harrison would be examined by team doctors upon returning to Pittsburgh on Monday. Those tests revealed Harrison sustained a fracture to the fifth metacarpal of his left hand — the same bone he broke on a hit-by-pitch last September that ended his season — and he is estimated to return to competition in approximately six weeks.
Tomczyk said the break isn't just in the same bone, but the same exact spot.
"As we walked through it with Josh, we found that it was very, very uncommon," Tomczyk said Monday of breaking the bone in exactly the same spot.
The Pirates officially placed Harrison on the disabled list and brought Max Moroff up from Class AAA Indianapolis for the start of their three-game series Monday night against Colorado at PNC Park.
Clint Hurdle said he spoke with Harrison earlier in the day but would not reveal what was said in that conversation. Harrison was not made available. But Hurdle did say the Pirates won't have to look far for a replacement both at second base and at the top of the batting order.
"We have (Sean) Rodriguez. We have (Adam) Frazier. We have Max Moroff," Hurdle said. "When Frazier is in the lineup, he'll bat leadoff. It gives me an opportunity to be creative when there's a left-handed pitcher from time to time, we'll have to find another guy who is capable of helping out at the top (of the order)."
Harrison squirmed and appeared to be in pain when head athletic trainer Bryan Housand grabbed his left hand, and he was replaced by Frazier, a left-handed batter, moments later. Harrison was batting .263 in 13 games this season with two doubles, one home run and five RBIs.
Harrison’s 2016 was also shortened by a groin injury, but an injury coming via a hit-by-pitch has become a point of contention. After all, Harrison, 30, was hit by 23 pitches last season, and the final one on Sept. 2 broke the fifth metacarpal on his left hand, ending his season after 128 games.
Although he’s been open about how close he stands to the plate, and how it enhances his strengths as a hitter, Harrison said he doesn’t plan on making any changes. Harrison was not wearing a cast following the game, but he was not present in the dugout after he left.
“So many degrees of difficulty,” Rodriguez told DKPittsburghSports.com. “He got (hit) in the hand after everything he went through last year. … He’s a high-volume guy who plays really intensely. You miss that. You take away what he’s doing at the top of the lineup, too, hurts.”
Frazier, a career .281 hitter in three seasons, has played various spots as a utility player for the Pirates, but settled into the outfield last season. He appeared in 71 games in the outfield last season, compared to 42 at second base, mostly when Harrison missed time.
"He saw a good amount of time there in Florida," Hurdle said of Frazier at second base. "And he's seen time there since we came back."
Moroff, 24, batted .200/.302/.325 with three home runs and 21 RBIs for the Pirates last season. He's appeared in seven games for Indianapolis this season, posting a .406 on-base percentage in 31 plate appearances.
Moroff said spending the past few weeks at Indianapolis helped him work on some things, which have been beneficial.
"I had some things to work on. That's why I got sent down," Moroff told DKPittsburghSports.com.
What were those things?
"Staying aggressive," he said. "Defensively, offensively and on the bases."
An All-Star last season, Harrison batted .272 with a .339 on-base percentage, 16 home runs and 47 RBIs before the season-ending injury. The Pirates can replace him in the lineup, but the question is if they can replace his energy and leadership.
"The men in the locker room have been through this before," Hurdle said of dealing with having a teammate injured. "Things happen. It challenges your depth and gives somebody else an opportunity to step forward. We're built well for that."
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