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Pirates notebook: John Jaso advises caution for Franciso Cervelli

| Saturday, June 24, 2017, 8:09 p.m.
The Pirates' John Jaso hits an RBI double during the fifth inning of against the Brewers on Wednesday, June 21, 2017, in Milwaukee.

ST. LOUIS — Two severe concussions he suffered 13 months apart are the reason John Jaso gave up playing catcher three years ago. Yet, Jaso said there is another culprit.

“I blame myself,” Jaso said Saturday. “I blame myself for not really evaluating myself that well. I told the manager I was fine and that I could go back out there. And then, boom, I was puking in a trash can, and I was done.”

Last week, Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli went on the seven-day concussion disabled list for the second time since absorbing a foul tip off his mask June 6. Before Cervelli flew back to Pittsburgh to be evaluated by team doctors, including a concussion specialist, Jaso pulled him aside.

“I talked to him a little bit about it,” Jaso said. “My advice was to not take it too lightly. It's a weird scenario. It's not something you can point at, like a broken bone, and be like, ‘See? There it is,' and show everybody. It's more about being honest with yourself.

“It's definitely something to look into further, so I think he and the staff are doing the right thing. We're all hoping for the best for the guy.”

In July 2013, Jaso was knocked out of action by a series of foul tips that caromed off his mask. It happened again in August 2014.

“Those were the two major ones,” Jaso said. “I've had a couple more in the past when I went on the DL, one time in the minor leagues and one my first year in the big leagues. There's more history for me, as far as concussions go, beyond those last two. Those last two were definitely eye-opening, dangerous situations.”

The Pirates medical staff is being extra cautious with Cervelli, who has a history of at least eight instances of significant head trauma.

“It comes with the territory (as a catcher),” said catcher Chris Stewart, who has never sustained a concussion. “It's kind of scary, when you start think about (injuring) your head and possible issues with that. Hopefully, Cervy can clear it all out and is good to go for the rest of the year.”

Concussions will affect different players in different ways. Researchers have found that, even if the effects of an initial brain injury have been resolved, repeated concussions can lead to long-term neurologic and functional issues.

For Jaso, the risk of continuing to play catcher was too great. He became a designated hitter with the Tampa Bay Rays, then switched to first base and outfield with the Pirates.

“When it happens, it's just like any other major injury,” Jaso said. “It's like, ‘Oh, my. Is this it for me?' It was hard to accept it when that second one happened. The Rays gave me a breath of new life with the DH role, but it was hard at first to accept that this might be it.”

Polanco's web gems

On Friday, Gregory Polanco got his second assist of the season and first as a right fielder.

In the bottom of the sixth inning , Stephen Piscotty was on the move from first base when Jose Martinez hit a blooper to shallow left. Polanco made a diving catch inches off the grass, quickly got to his feet and threw to first base to double off Piscotty.

Polanco also made superb running catches in the seventh and eighth innings.

“I don't remember having another game like (that),” Polanco said. “It was pretty fun. I felt like, ‘Man, I should do that more often.' It's a very good feeling when you're not very good with your bat, when you're not swinging very good, but you make good defensive plays.”

Polanco went 0 for 4 at the plate and was sluggish down the first-base line when he hit a grounder in the sixth.

Polanco said he got a poor break out of the batter's box because the pitch jammed him inside, and he tried to veer out of the way. Manager Clint Hurdle offered a similar assessment but did not excuse Polanco for the execution and said Polanco was made aware of that.

“We've had an ongoing conversation,” Hurdle said. “You've got to get out of the box. He wasn't able to get out of the box. So it looks like he wasn't running. I think sometimes it's important for these guys to see the video to see what it looks like.”

Bullpen bombed

Through Friday, the Pirates had given up 32 home runs in the seventh inning or later. All but one were served up by the bullpen.

“That's an outlier for us,” Hurdle said. “That's a lot. That's nobody's game plan.”

Tony Watson has allowed seven home runs, which is tied for sixth-most in the National League. Daniel Hudson has give up six, including rookie Paul DeJong's solo shot in the seventh inning Friday.

Over his past 18 outings, Hudson has been scored upon four times — all via home runs.

“Just one or two mistakes, and they're getting hit over the fence,” Hudson said. “Hopefully, I can cut down on those. Trying to get the ball on the ground and missing bats more (often) would be ideal. Can't really explain it other than missed locations.”

Lindblom off DL

Josh Lindblom was activated off the disabled list and sent outright to Triple-A Indianapolis. The righty reliever had been out since May 20 with left-side discomfort.

Antonio Bastardo's minor league rehab stint is about to expire. He's been on the DL with a strained quad since April 25.

“We've talked to Antonio,” Hurdle said. “We'll get something done by Tuesday.”

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

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