LAKELAND, Fla. (FOX 2) - Welcome to Detroit, Josh Harrison.
The 31 year old finalized a one-year deal with the Tigers this week and he’s already reported to spring training down in Lakeland, Florida. Harrison’s base salary will be worth $2 million after spending eight seasons as a Pittsburgh Pirate, playing second base, third base, shortstop and in the outfield.
A few hours before the Tigers would take on the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday afternoon, I asked him how he was feeling about the big move.
“Still trying to get my bearings straight. Find out where I’m going, meet new guys, but I mean, give me a day or so, and it’ll be like I’ve been here since the beginning,” he said, grinning.
He’s already got former teammate Jordy Mercer, who signed a one-year deal with the Tigers in December. Harrison said Mercer’s been filling him in on how things work around here.
I also asked him what he was focusing on right now. His big thing? Staying healthy.
“I’ve been in this game a long time. I’ve been the guy that’s been on the DL a few times, played banged up,” he said. “And at the end of the day all I say is healthy? Everything else will take care of itself.”
Now it’s about figuring out where he belongs on the team.
“I don’t think it’s anything that I set out to say, ‘I’m going to be a leader or a veteran presence,' it’s kinda just how I’m wired,” he said.
That makes sense. I mean, baseball’s in his blood. His uncle, John Shelby, played 11 years in the big leagues -- two years in Detroit -- and his brother played 10 years of professional baseball. With all that baseball in his life, the knowledge just tends to come out.
“I have a lot of information from my lens, people that have been there and done that, that I know I can bring to the table and help others,” Harrison said.
He’ll be wearing the number 1 -- the same number once worn by Tigers legend Lou Whitaker, a second baseman for the Tigers from 1977 to 1995.
”I’m honored, man. Sweet Lou, a nickname like that says enough,” Harrison said.
Harrison said being associated with Whitaker is pretty fitting, as he considers himself somewhat of an old-school player. He remembers once having Sweet Lou on his team. Well, his video game team.
“I remember playing a game on Sega called Sports Talk Baseball. Detroit was actually one of my favorite teams -- Mickey Tettleton, Cecil Fielder, (Trammell),” he said.
Harrison hit .250 with eight home runs and 37 RBIs last year. He missed time early in the season with a hand injury and played just 97 games. In 2017, he hit a career-high 16 home runs.