Pittsburgh already has a J. Harrison on one of its' sports rosters.

The incumbent would be James of the Steelers, who has put together a resume that includes two Super Bowl rings (one as a starter), four Pro Bowls, a Defensive Player of the Year award, 49 sacks, the body-slamming of a Cleveland Browns fan who had run onto the field of play, several thousand dollars in fines from NFL Commish Roger Goodell, a book about his life ("Never Give Up"), a few notable off-field incidents, a 6'0 / 250 lb. physique that slings an incredible amount of poundage in a weight room, and the longest play in Super Bowl history (the "Harrison Hundred").

The newbie is Josh of the Pirates.

He has seven games under his belt with a resume that includes seven hits, six of which are singles. His physique is listed at 5'8 inches tall, and generously so. No books, records, fines, awards, plays named after him, nor on-field fan encounters just yet.

However, "Hairy" has impressed. Meaning Josh.

Actually, upon hearing that teammate Garrett Jones had recently called him "Hairy," Josh responded with an "I'd really prefer if people don't call me that. I've always been JHay. Other nicknames [I've heard] have been Young Buck, or June Bug. They're just throwing out all types. But it's all good fun."

Fun, and successful. Perhaps it's coincidence, but the Pirates have a 5-2 record so far with JHay starting in the infield. Small sample size, yes, but Josh is proving there's nothing wrong with the small stuff.

"I feel very comfortable," said JHay during the Diamondbacks series in early June. "Confident at the plate, confident in the field. I just come in every day ready to play, do whatever i can. The fans have taken me on pretty well, and it's always a good feeling to come to a new team and not know anybody and know that the fans are behind you. We've been playing some good ball and just want to keep that rolling and keep the fans happy."

Harrison has flat played good ball wherever he has been.

To start the season and prior to his MLB debut on May 31st, the speedy JHay hit .321 with 8 stolen bases in 37 games with AAA affiliate Indianapolis.

In 2010 with AA Altoona, June Bug hit .300 with 75 RBI and 33 doubles en route to an Eastern League Championship.

In 2009, split between the Pirates and Chicago Cubs minor league systems (coming to Pittsburgh in the trade involving John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny), Young Buck hit .311 with 30 steals.

And in three seasons at the University of Cincinnati, his final as Big East Player of the Year, Harrison hit .358 with 192 runs, 246 hits, and 253 RBI in 173 games.

In short, no pun intended, Josh Harrison has hit over .300 his whole life.

He's played short, too, as in shortstop. Although that was in high school and in some college games. The Pirates have placed him primarily at third base with a cameo at second. Josh, however, admits his favorite players growing up were shortstops Barry Larkin and Ozzie Smith ("watching highlights"), and that he has the tools in his bag.

"I'm just grateful I have a chance to play somewhere, but [SS] is not out of my mind. The more versatile you are the more helpful you can become in double switches, or anything. I had it down in the minor leagues, and if they throw me in here or there, I've got it in my background."

That could be helpful moving forward for JHay, considering Pedro Alvarez would seem to have dibs on the hot corner when healthy, and likewise Neil Walker at 2B. Ronny Cedeno's hold on the pivot could be much less secure going forward despite recent solid play (44 straight games without an error and 15 of 16 games safely reaching base).

Whatever happens, Harrison has shown he's going to fight just like his ballclub has been. "It's never over until the last out," Josh says with a cliche. "Clint [Hurdle] says it every game whether we're winning or losing. We're going to battle the whole game."

One watch of JHay and you can see that energy, passion, and the baseball smarts that sometimes aren't obvious in every Big Leaguer.

Not to mention speed, the likes of which beat out a throw to second base in a key comeback win on June 7th in the 'Burgh. When placed at the top of the Bucco lineup, Harrison creates a speed surge between outfielders Jose Tabata and Andrew McCutchen. Question is, who's fastest of the three?

"We haven't raced yet," Josh said, smiling. "Tabby and Cutch, they're some burners, though. I'm just glad to be on a team with some more fast guys. Anytime we get on base we can put pressure on the defense, and we might allow someone behind us to get a good pitch to hit or the defense to panic and throw the ball away. My steals will come, but I've got to get on base to do that."

And while the hits totals haven't been overwhelming yet (a .241 average through seven contests), Josh Harrison's impact has been tangible in clutch hits, solid play in the field and in things that don't show up on a box score. It's not quite Deebo Harrison stuff just yet, but Deebo Jr. has a nickname's working feel to it in the Pittsburgh summer.

Posted in Pittsburgh Penguins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pittsburgh Steelers

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