Pirates owner Nutting hopeful about Polanco but worried hype is too much

Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco catches a ball hit by the Cubs' Chris Coghlan during the second inning Wednesday, June 11, 2014, at PNC Park.
Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco catches a ball hit by the Cubs' Chris Coghlan during the second inning Wednesday, June 11, 2014, at PNC Park.
Photo by Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Bob Cohn
| Wednesday, June 11, 2014, 7:54 p.m.

Pirates owner Bob Nutting said calling up Gregory Polanco on Tuesday was the “right decision” and that he was “completely supportive” of the decision, but he also had hoped the prized prospect would have spent more time at Triple-A Indianapolis.

“It's wonderful that Gregory's reception (Tuesday) night was outstanding (at PNC Park),” Nutting said Wednesday. “Frankly, might it have been better for the player to have some more time, to continue working? I know (general manager) Neal (Huntingtom) and his team have a list of things they were working through at the Triple-A level with Gregory. And so it's our responsibility to not only bring him up to where he can make a positive impact on the club but (also) to make sure he can develop into the very best player he can.

“It's hard to go through that learning curve. It's hard to develop as a major league player. ... I'm not at all sure that we still may not be second-guessed at some point for rushing him. He's 22 years old.”

Nutting acknowledged the spotlight on Polanco is immense.

“It's gonna be very hard for him to live up to the hype,” Nutting said. “It's not an ideal way to enter the game. He is gonna be a good player. We have a lot of faith in him. But he's played one game.”

The Pirates called up Polanco after placing Neil Walker on the 15-day disabled list following the second baseman's appendectomy Monday.

Nutting made his comments after speaking at the Sports Facilities & Franchises and Ticketing Symposium, Downtown.

He addressed myriad subjects, including his dissatisfaction with the team's play.

“We need to play better,” he said. “This team has not performed on all cylinders yet. It can. I believe we have talented players. We need to get all the pieces rolling at the same time.”

After last season's surprising success, the Pirates are 31-34 after beating the Chicago Cubs, 4-2, on Wednesday.

“Injuries obviously are a concern,” Nutting said, noting Walker, who is having an All-Star-caliber season, and ace right-hander Gerrit Cole going on the disabled list. Left-handed starter Francisco Liriano, a disappointment this season with a 1-6 record, joined the pair on the DL on Wednesday.

The Pirates also lost catcher Russell Martin and closer Jason Grilli for considerable time this season, and promising right-hander Jameson Taillon, who might have joined the club from the minors this season, is recovering from Tommy John surgery.

“You're always gonna have some (injuries). Is that a concern? Absolutely,” Nutting said. “Is it (Huntington's) responsibility and our responsibility and the organization's responsibility to effectively find ways to deal with that? That's what we're gonna work on as hard as we can.”

Nutting agreed that the Pirates would not sneak up on anyone this season. Opponents “expected us to be a serious, competitive and good team,” he said. But, he added, “We have always expected ourselves to a be a serious, competitive and good team.

“That will continue to be my expectation. We need to go out on the field every day expecting to win. We need to go into every season expecting to win a championship, and that's still where we are. And frankly there's no reason to think that's not an achievable target. Do we need to get some more things going right? Absolutely. But I'm still very supportive and very enthusiastic.”

Note: The Pirates are developing a master plan for improvements to PNC Park and enhancements to the fan experience. The club is seeking input from fans during six invitation-only sessions at the ballpark on June 17-18.

Nutting called PNC Park “a gem,” and “the best ballpark in America” but said improvements to the facility are needed over the next 15 years. He declined to be specific.

“We have to be as responsive as possible to our fans,” he said. “It really right now is a process. We're just getting started. We're looking forward to sharing the process as it develops.”

The ballpark opened in 2001.

“We're trying to find what the best ballpark in 2030 is gonna look like, and it's not crystal clear,” he said.

Bob Cohn is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bcohn@tribweb.com.

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