ShareThis Page

Polanco off to red-hot start at Triple-A Indianapolis

| Monday, April 14, 2014, 7:54 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco bats against the Rays on Thursday, March 13, 2014, at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla.

CINCINNATI — In the middle of March, Gregory Polanco was summoned to Pirates manager Clint Hurdle's office in Bradenton, Fla., and was told he would open the season with Triple-A Indianapolis despite having a strong spring in major league camp.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Hurdle told Polanco he hoped to see him soon in Pittsburgh.

Hurdle might not have to wait much longer.

Polanco, the Pirates' No. 1 prospect, was named the International League's top hitter of the week on Monday. Polanco is off to a blistering start, posting a .465 batting average, .511 on-base percentage and .744 slugging mark in his first 11 games entering Monday, including six extra-base hits and two home runs.

Hurdle said he has spoken with the Indianapolis coaching staff regarding the performance of one of the game's consensus top-20 prospects.

“He's hitting the ball hard where it's pitched. He's playing both sides of the ball. His base-running has been good,” Hurdle said.


“It's the volume of games you keep in perspective,” Hurdle said.

Polanco entered the spring with just 295 plate appearances above A-ball, but he did win MVP and Rookie of the League honors in the competitive Dominican winter league.

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said in March one of the main reasons Polanco was sent to Triple-A was so he could log more at-bats against veteran pitchers, who would better alter their pitch sequences. So far, Polanco has been up to the challenge.

Polanco could be ready before the Pirates are ready for him, as most organizations refrain from elevating their most talented prospects until they clear projected Super 2 status so the club can avoid paying an extra year of arbitration.

Stewart closing in on return

Pirates catcher Chris Stewart caught back-to-back games over the weekend with Triple-A Indianapolis and has reported no setbacks in his return from a knee injury.

“I spoke with Chris (Sunday) evening. He's doing fine. He's making progress,” Hurdle said. “He actually caught a seven-inning game Saturday and then caught for all four-plus hours of the game (Sunday). He's gotten nine or 10 at-bats the last few days so he's in a good place. He said he felt good (Sunday) after catching seven and nine innings. That's a good sign.

Stewart underwent arthroscopic surgery last month after tearing his right meniscus in spring training. He was placed on the disabled list March 29 retroactive to March 21. He now is eligible to return.

The Pirates acquired Stewart from the Yankees during the offseason to serve as Russell Martin's backup.

Tony Sanchez was scheduled to begin the season at Triple-A before Stewart's injury. Sanchez has recorded two game-winning hits in the early going.

While a limited offensive player, Stewart is regarded as a strong all-around defensive catcher.

Work horses

After ranking second in the National League in relief innings last season (545 23), Hurdle would like his starters to take on a greater burden of work this year. The Pirates entered Monday 10th in the league in relief innings.

“It's a Catch-22 situation,” Hurdle said. “If you continue to ask (the bullpen) to perform at that high level of performance and excellence, eventually it will catch up to them. You'd like to see the starter take it a little deeper.”

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.