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Wednesday's scouting report: Cubs at Pirates

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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014, 5:30 p.m.
 

X-factors

• Although he's an aggressive batter, Pirates RF Gregory Polanco never amassed more than 73 strikeouts in any of his five seasons in the minor leagues. After whiffing in 21 percent of his at-bats in rookie ball in 2010 and 20 percent in Low-A in 2011, Polanco has improved and matured. He struck out 13 percent of the time at Double-A last year and had a 16 percent rate this year at Triple-A Indianapolis. He owns the much-desired traits of great bat speed and an uncanny ability to square up the ball.

• Jason Hammel put up quality starts in each of his first seven outings with the Cubs. In his 13th and most recent start, Hammel tossed seven shutout innings against the Marlins but got a no-decision. His 0.88 WHIP is second-best in the majors, as is his .191 opponents' batting average.

The Buzz

Pirates hitting coach Jeff Branson was selected as part of the inaugural class of the Gulf South Conference Hall of Fame. Branson, who was a standout shortstop at West Alabama in the 1980s, will be inducted June 25 in Pensacola, Fla. The group going into the hall consists of five former players, three administrators and two head coaches.

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