Harrison will take over the leadoff spot

PITTSBURGH – The Pirates have a new leadoff hitter, but he’s not really new to the job.

Josh Harrison will now bat first, manager Clint Hurdle indicated after Sunday’s 7-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park.

The move is fine with Harrison.

“I like to try to get things started,” he said.

The Pirates continue to look for answers in a season that has been exasperating at every turn.

John Jaso started the season in the leadoff spot, but eventually slumped himself out of the job after 73 games of hitting first. Jordy Mercer has hit leadoff 21 times, nearly all of them against left-handed pitching.

Sunday’s game was Harrison’s ninth this season in that position, but it would appear he’ll stay there for a while.

“For right now, he’s given us the spark we’re looking for,” Hurdle said. “Absolutely. That’s why we made the change. He’s done it in the past. There are some numbers that swing his way when you look at it.

“There are times, when the at-bats are managed, that it works. There are some times when he gets in that quick-fire mode, and it doesn’t play out the same way. I think he understands the role that’s needed from him right now. We’ll see where it takes us, but we’re leaving him right there.”

Prior to Sunday’s 1-for-4, Harrison had batted .344 in the leadoff spot (11-for-32) with an on-base percentage of .364.

Still talking

General manager Neal Huntington said he’s still pursuing trades, although it’s more difficult to complete them.

Players have to clear waivers in order to be dealt. Arquimedes Caminero did, and was traded to Seattle on Saturday.

“We’re looking for ways to add to the club,” Huntington said.

It is especially difficult to get players from one league to the other. Sometimes teams will block waivers in order to prevent a competitor from getting a player.

“I don’t want to sit here and promise to be active because there’s so much that’s out of our control,” Huntington said.

Huntington said the Pirates had discussed dealing Caminero to Seattle as part of a trade that involved additional players before the deadline. That didn’t happen, so they made the smaller deal on Saturday.

The negotiations leading to the deadline could lay the groundwork for trades in the offseason, Huntington said.

He didn’t rule out the possibility of acquiring a player with a “significant” contract now that the Pirates have cleared an $18 million obligation to Francisco Liriano from their books.

He got away

Huntington was asked if he regretted letting pitcher J.A. Happ get away as a free agent.

Happ, who was 7-2 with a 1.85 over the last two months of 2015 for the Pirates, signed a three-year, $36 million deal with Toronto. He currently leads the American League with a 15-3 record and has 3.09 ERA.

The Pirates shied away from signing Happ because he was 33 and his work had been mediocre before coming to Pittsburgh.

“Francisco’s (Liriano) first year of a three-year contract was fantastic,” Huntington said. “J.A. has thrown the ball well and certainly has shown the ability to continue what he did for two months here. There are two (more) years on that contract for time to tell.

“We wanted to re-sign J.A. We weren’t able to meet the financial ask, or chose not to, and Toronto was aggressive and came and got him. Hindsight always gives you the opportunity to wish you had done something differently. We have to make the best decisions we can at the time with the information we have.

“We don’t have the benefit of hindsight. We have to project what we believe what we believe is going to happen, then learn from what works and what doesn’t.”

Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com