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Pirates notebook: Polanco 'happy to be healthy,' drives in lone run in loss

Rob Biertempfel
| Monday, April 17, 2017, 7:09 p.m.
Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart forces out the Pirates' Gregory Polanco at home plate during the third inning Monday, April 10, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart forces out the Pirates' Gregory Polanco at home plate during the third inning Monday, April 10, 2017, at PNC Park.
The Pirates' Jordy Mercer fields a groundball against the Cardinals in the first inning April 17, 2017 in St. Louis, Mo.
Getty Images
The Pirates' Jordy Mercer fields a groundball against the Cardinals in the first inning April 17, 2017 in St. Louis, Mo.
Pirates starter Ivan Nova pitches against the Cardinals in the first inning April 17, 2017 in St. Louis, Mo.
Getty Images
Pirates starter Ivan Nova pitches against the Cardinals in the first inning April 17, 2017 in St. Louis, Mo.

ST. LOUIS — Gregory Polanco almost certainly will be back in the field Tuesday when the Pirates face the St. Louis Cardinals.

He showed he hasn't lost his batting stroke, driving a pinch-hit double to left-center field in the ninth inning Monday to drive in the Pirates' only run in their 2-1 loss.

Polanco did not play Saturday and Sunday because of a tight right groin. He was cleared to return after a workout Monday afternoon.

The starting lineup for Monday's game already was set before Polanco got the thumbs up from the athletic trainers.

Polanco tweaked his groin Friday while running the bases in the sixth inning. He broke for second base on a steal attempt, then continued to third when David Freese singled to right field.

“I tried to stop at second, but when I saw the ball was (still) behind me, I went to third,” Polanco said. “When I got to third base, that's when I felt it.”

Polanco stayed in the game but sat out the rest of the series against the Chicago Cubs as a precaution.

“I didn't want to push it,” Polanco said. “It's better to miss a couple of days than half of the season.”

Polanco hopes he doesn't lose any of the momentum he has built at the plate. He has reached base in seven straight games, hitting .435 (10 for 23) in the process.

His performance against left-handed pitchers has been especially impressive. Polanco entered Monday batting .286 against lefties — 80 points better than his career average.

He has a .273 average against right-handers this season.

“I think it's him maturing, getting more experience and getting the reps (against lefties) and getting some familiarity with the pitchers,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He's hit left-handed pitching since he was 5 years old all the way up to the major leagues. It's a progression.

“When I put him fourth (in the lineup), I told him I wasn't going to put him fourth against right-handers and sixth against left-handers any more. I was going to settle him into one place and let him go to work there because it's something he's ready to handle.”

Kang appeal date set

Yonhap News Agency reported Jung Ho Kang's appeal hearing on his drunk-driving conviction will be May 25 in Seoul, South Korea.

In March, Kang received an eight-month jail term, which was suspended for two years. The conviction has stymied his attempts to get a work visa to come to the United States and rejoin the Pirates.

It's unclear how long Kang's appeal process will take or how much it will aid his attempt to get a visa.

Born to run … and hit

Polanco nearly got an at-bat in Sunday's game. He was on deck to pinch-hit for Felipe Rivero in the ninth but was called back when Adam Frazier hit a three-run homer to give the Pirates a 6-1 lead.

If Polanco had batted and reached base, Hurdle would have used pitcher Chad Kuhl as a pinch-runner.

Instead, when Polanco returned to the dugout, Hurdle motioned for Kuhl to go to the plate and hit. Kuhl was caught off guard.

“I didn't even take any warm-up swings,” Kuhl admitted.

Kuhl fouled off four pitches from reliever Justin Grimm and drew a walk.

“A pretty good at-bat,” Hurdle said.

Minor move

The Pirates acquired right-hander Johnny Barbato from the New York Yankees for cash or a player to be named. He was placed on the 40-man roster and optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis.

Barbato, 24, made one outing for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before being designed for assignment.

Last season, Barbato was on the Yankees' opening-day roster. He lasted only 13 outings, however, after putting up a 7.62 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP. Over 13 innings in the majors, he has struck out 15 and walked five.

After being drafted by the San Diego Padres in the sixth round in 2010, Barbato was traded to the Yankees in December 2014 for Shawn Kelley.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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