Bucs’ Harrison focused on winning, not what team he’s on

BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) – Josh Harrison is still with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and his feelings aren’t much different than they were a month ago.

Harrison spoke to reporters Sunday, the day before the first spring training workout for Pittsburgh’s full squad. The Pirates traded outfielder Andrew McCutchen and right-hander Gerrit Cole this offseason, a retooling that inspired little confidence in the team’s short-term chances for success. The 30-year-old Harrison told The Athletic last month that if the Pirates don’t expect to contend in the next couple years, maybe he should be traded too.

“My statement was something that was from the heart,” Harrison said Sunday. “I spoke what I spoke, said my feelings, but at the end of the day, I can’t control certain things. All I control is me.”

Harrison hit .272 last year with a career-high 16 home runs, and the talented second baseman isn’t the only Pittsburgh player who has expressed reservations about the team’s outlook. Third baseman David Freese spoke out Friday, saying the Pirates haven’t had enough urgency.

With all of that swirling around the team at the start of spring training, general manager Neal Huntington spoke as well Sunday.

“We want to win,” he said. “We have the exact same goals they do. It’s to win a World Series.”

Harrison made his big league debut in 2011, and the Pirates are the only team he’s played for. He hit .315 in 2014, and with McCutchen gone, Harrison could become a significant leader on this team. He seemed in good spirits Sunday – ready to begin the season, if not exactly backing down from his January comments.

“I’m going to be happy any time I’m playing the game of baseball,” Harrison said. “There’s guys in that clubhouse that I’m really good friends with, and at the end of the day, I can’t control being here, being anywhere else. My main goal is to make sure, wherever I am, that they understand I want to win. If that’s not the main focus, I want to go elsewhere.”

Huntington wasn’t conceding anything about the team’s ability to compete. The Pirates made the playoffs three straight seasons from 2013-15, winning 98 games in the final year of that run. They’ve been a sub-.500 team since then and went 75-87 in 2017.

Huntington didn’t sound like he was in any rush to trade Harrison, but he didn’t rule it out.

“If that day comes where the right thing for the Pirates is to trade Player X or Player Y, as hard and as cold and as calculating as that sounds, then those are the decisions that we’ll make,” he said. “In terms of this year and where we are and where we go forward, we want to win, and we want to do the right thing for the Pirates.”