Pirates send Polanco to Triple-A Indianapolis; Tabata, Barmes return
The timing is off on Gregory Polanco's swing, manager Clint Hurdle said, and the Pirates didn't think the best way to fix it was to have him sit on the bench in the majors.
They sent the struggling outfielder back to Triple-A Indianapolis on Monday. The Pirates plan to bring him back Sept. 2.
Previously, any player not on the 25-man roster — and not on the disabled or bereavement lists — on Sept. 1 was ineligible for the postseason. But a recent rule change allows any player on the 40-man roster, which still will include Polanco, to be eligible for the playoffs.
“It's an opportunity to get down, get some at-bats, get out of the spotlight and find his way,” Hurdle said. “I believe he will, and he'll come back here and help this ballclub in September in a very positive fashion.”
Polanco, 22, was the Pirates' top-rated prospect when he made his big league debut June 10. In his first 16 major league games, he hit .338 (23 for 68) with two homers and four stolen bases.
Batting .033 (1 for 30) since Aug. 13, Polanco has started just one of the Pirates' past five games. He had a .301 batting average July 4, but it dropped to .241 after he went 0 for 3 on Sunday against the Milwaukee Brewers.
“He'll have a different load to carry, the opportunity to focus on his craft and get unplugged a little bit,” Hurdle said. “It's happened to a number of very good players throughout their careers.
“Once you get away, you analyze those 200, 250 at-bats. Did you complicate things? What were you feeling when it was going well? What were you feeling when it wasn't going well? Just the experience of it all. It's an opportunity to learn and reflect, go down and get to have four to five at-bats a night without the same magnification on each and every one of them.”
Polanco's demotion also is due in part to the resurgence of Travis Snider, who is batting .362 (21 for 58) with three homers since Aug. 7.
Tabata returns from Triple-A
Polanco's demotion gives Jose Tabata, not too long ago considered a Pirates outfield mainstay, the opportunity to prove he can still play at the major league level. The Pirates recalled him Monday after outrighting him to Indianapolis in late June.
Tabata was hitting .289 when he was demoted. The 26-year-old, who made his major league debut in 2010, said he was told only to work hard and the Pirates would see what might happen.
“I don't know why they sent me down, but I had to respect that,” he said. “It's baseball.”
In 39 games with Indianapolis, Tabata hit .281 with 12 RBIs.
Hurdle said Tabata handled the demotion professionally, but that there is another side to that.
“If they choose not to go, they forfeit their salary,” he said. “Let's be transparent about this before you want to hand him any medals for going down there and showing up.”
Tabata still has the opportunity to show he can contribute at this level, Hurdle said.
“He's had his look in the past. He's going to get another one,” Hurdle said. “Last year when (Starling) Marte when down, he gave us a very good month of baseball leading off, playing, doing things he's done in the past. He went down there, did his duty, and he's back.”
Barmes back, too
The Pirates activated shortstop Clint Barmes (left groin strain) from the disabled list after his rehab assignment and designated utilityman Jayson Nix for assignment. Barmes went 3 for 19 with a home run and two RBIs in five games with Indianapolis and 2 for 6 in two games with Double-A Altoona.
Morton to pitch in Altoona
Charlie Morton (right hip inflammation) threw a bullpen session Friday and another Monday, and he will go on a rehab assignment to Double-A Altoona and pitch Thursday. He's scheduled to throw five innings or 75 pitches.
Affiliate move to W.Va. is official
The Pirates' Single-A short-season affiliate in Jamestown will move to Morgantown, W.Va., in 2015. Rich Baseball Operations officially announced the move Monday. The team will play in West Virginia's baseball complex that is under construction.
Minor league honors
Altoona outfielder Keon Broxton was named Eastern League Player of the Week after hitting .500 with one double, one triple, three home runs and nine RBIs. Right-hander Adrian Sampson and catcher Elias Diaz were named to the 2014 Eastern League season-ending all-star team.
Karen Price and Rob Biertempfel are a staff writers for Trib Total Media. Reach Price at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib. Reach Biertempfel at email@example.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.