Pirates embrace Polanco's debut

| Tuesday, June 10, 2014, 5:48 p.m.

Josh Harrison walked into the Pirates clubhouse and saw Gregory Polanco sitting facing forward in the stall directly to the right of his.

He walked up and tapped the team's newest right fielder on the shoulder. Polanco turned around and smiled.

“I gave him a handshake and a hug,” Harrison said. “You can tell he's excited to be here. He's ready to play. I can tell.”

Polanco arrived in Pittsburgh at 11 a.m. on Tuesday and will start Tuesday night's game in right field, batting second. He sat in front of reporters at PNC Park around 3 p.m. and talked about his upcoming major league debut.

“I'm excited,” Polanco said. “I know I'm going to be excited, but I'm going to try to be in control.”

Polanco was with his Triple-A teammates at Lehigh Valley on Monday night when manager Dean Treanor called a meeting and, in front of everyone, told Polanco of the call-up. Polanco said he had no idea it was coming.

“He was like, ‘Prepare, you're going to Pittsburgh tomorrow,' and I was like, ‘Oh!'” Polanco said. “I was surprised.”

Shortstop Jordy Mercer said that watching a guy make his big league debut reminds everyone in the room of the day they got called up for the first time.

“All the hype and build-up, you're wondering if you can play here, if you can't play here, what's going to happen,” Mercer said. “You're just excited to get it going and get the game going.”

Mercer's debut was on May 29, 2012. Jason Grilli's was on May 11, 2000, but he said it's hard not to think about how exciting that day was watching another player get his chance.

“I'm fired up for him,” Grilli said. “I hope the crowd gets on its feet and he has his moment you dream of when you're now officially a big leaguer. It's the coolest thing to watch. There's a lot of pressure and hype surrounding this kid, and I think it's only going to be fitting to see him do something great.”

Grilli said he was impressed with Polanco's maturity during spring training. Grilli believes that will help the 22-year-old outfielder handle the pressure.

“I think he'll do just fine with that because when you see him, he's happy. He's embracing it,” Grilli said. “He knows that he belongs, and I think that's the most impressive thing I see from a kid coming up that wants to be here, that energy, that spirit. He's going to go out there and if it's 25 at-bats to do something special or his first at-bat, it's going to be special regardless. He's here. He's going to have his moment and when it comes and he starts feeling the groove, it's going to be awesome.”

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at kprice@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.

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