With Gregory Polanco out, Pirates depend on defensive versatility

By Stephen J. Nesbitt / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

CHICAGO — The Pirates flexed their defensive flexibility Sunday.

With Gregory Polanco (right groin discomfort) out of the lineup against Chicago Cubs left-hander Jon Lester, manager Clint Hurdle started two super-utility players, Phil Gosselin and Adam Frazier, and another former super-utility player in Josh Harrison.

It made for a fun defensive jigsaw puzzle two days in a row. On Saturday, Polanco was scratched before the game and Hurdle put Alen Hanson in his spot in left field. Harrison entered Hurdle’s office and told him, given Hanson’s inexperience with the wind at Wrigley, he’d be happy to play left field. Hurdle turned Harrison down, at first, and then took him up on the offer.

On Sunday, Harrison was at third base. Hurdle put Frazier in left field, and Gosselin at second.

“We’ve prioritized what their best positions are, as we see them,” he explained. “With each guy that plays multiple positions, there’s one position he feels more comfortable and confident than others. … It actually makes sense to us. Might not to anybody else.”

Except for shortstop Jordy Mercer, none of the Pirates infielders Sunday were at their natural position. David Freese, who played first, has been a third baseman for most of his career. But with this roster, with so many versatile defenders, Hurdle had options, and he used them.

“There are a lot of moving pieces, but that’s one of the things that makes our lineup and roster very interesting and flexible,” Hurdle said. “Even during the game, we can still make some switches and move people around if need be.”

The Pirates and Cubs begin their series finale at 2:20 p.m. Sunday at Wrigley Field. The Pirates are looking for their first sweep on Chicago’s North Side since September 2014.


1. Jordy Mercer SS

2. Starling Marte CF

3. Andrew McCutchen RF
4. David Freese 1B

5. Francisco Cervelli C

6. Josh Harrison 3B

7. Phil Gosselin 2B
8. Adam Frazier (L) LF
9. Jameson Taillon RHP


1. Kyle Schwarber (L) LF

2. Kris Bryant 3B

3. Anthony Rizzo (L) 1B

4. Ben Zobrist (S) RF
5. Addison Russell SS

6. Jason Heyward (L) CF

7. Willson Contreras C

8. Jon Lester (L) LHP

9. Javier Baez 2B

Stephen J. Nesbitt: snesbitt@post-gazette.com and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.

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