Hurdle still tinkering with Pirates’ lineup

By John Mehno

For the Mirror

PITTSBURGH — Considering the Pirates have only carried 12 position players for much of this season, it’s notable that they used their 10th different leadoff hitter Monday night.

Corey Dickerson became the latest to occupy the top spot in the batting order when a three-game series with the Washington Nationals opened.

Josh Bell batted leadoff over the weekend, but went 2-for-13 in that spot. That led to Dickerson’s chance.

“Changing the view, changing the timing,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Giving something an opportunity to work.”

The role isn’t completely unfamiliar to Dickerson. It was his first time this season, but his 90th time as a leadoff hitter in the major leagues between his time with Colorado and Tampa Bay.

His career numbers in the No. 1 spot are .297 batting average, .317 on-base percentage and .794 OPS.

“I’ve done it in the past, had success and enjoyed it,’ Dickerson said. “I enjoy the routine, knowing when I was going to hit and when to get ready. It’s more times I can get up to the plate and try to help the team.”

Josh Harrison has batted first 39 times this season. He hit seventh on Monday, a reflection of an ongoing slump that has taken his average from .309 to .260 since May 28.

Over his last 35 games, Harrison has batted .232 with a .260 on-base percentage and .579 OPS.

“Right now I want (Harrison) down (in the lineup),” Hurdle said. “We hope to find some stability through it all. We’re looking for ways to squeeze out more offense because I don’t think we have fired on all cylinders. Sometimes the alignment can spark it. We’ll see what this brings.”

Bell was out of Monday’s starting lineup. David Freese played first base.

Max Moroff started at shortstop in place of Jordy Mercer.

Changes to make?

The players were aware of what general manager Neal Huntington said on Sunday: If the Pirates don’t start making some progress, the team will either trade veterans or give more playing time to younger players.

“I don’t think anyone has been thinking about that,” Harrison said. “I think we’re thinking about trying to right the ship.”

Minor league honor

Oneil Cruz, the 19-year-old shortstop for the Pirates’ West Virginia Power Class A affiliate, was named South Atlantic League player of the month for June.

Cruz batted .375 939-for-104) with three home runs, 19 runs batted in and an OPS of 1.025.

He was acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers last July 31 in the Tony Watson deal.

All-star selection

Closer Felipe Vazquez was the Pirates’ lone selection for the All-Star game, to be played in Washington.

Vazquez said he wasn’t thinking about making the team this season. He was disappointed when he was excluded last year.

“He had to battle this year,” Hurdle said. “He went through a rough stretch and fought his way through it. I’m proud of him.”

Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com

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