Gregory Polanco’s shoulder could force Pirates to seek alternatives in right field
Only one year ago, right fielder Gregory Polanco led the Pittsburgh Pirates in home runs and RBIs.
But his future with the team remains in question.
General manager Neal Huntington said Sunday that before Polanco can resume making meaningful contributions to the team, he needs an offseason of successful rehab on his surgically repaired throwing shoulder. He played in only 42 games this season before going on the injured list June 22.
Meanwhile, Huntington said the team will formulate some “Plan B’s, C’s and D’s” while considering “external options” for right field in 2020.
“We don’t want to write him off, but we need to see how he progresses this month and next month as we go into the offseason with a plan in mind,” he said.
Huntington said further surgery could be an option.
“As complicated as his first surgery was, the challenges that we’ve had coming back through that, we can’t ever rule it out. They may need to try to get in there.”
Where are Hayes, Craig?
During his 20-minute chat with reporters, Huntington explained why top prospects Ke’Bryan Hayes and Will Craig are not part of the Pirates’ September callups.
“In both cases, we did not feel either was ready to come up here and do what they need to do at the major league level,” Huntington said. “And, two, we didn’t necessarily see opportunity as well. In Ke’Bryan’s case, it’s the bat.”
He said the team is looking for “the guy we saw in spring training who was driving the ball to all fields with authority and to be in a position to do damage, and consistent damage.”
“Damage doesn’t necessarily have to be home runs. Doubles that turn into home runs eventually as he matures and gains man strength, those are going to be important.
“He can play defense (third base). He can run the bases. He can do some things, but we need to get that bat a chance to catch up to how good this major league pitching will be.”
Huntington said the team wants Craig, a 6-foot-3, 235-pound first baseman, to get stronger.
“Men play at the major league level, and they’re big, strong men,” he said. “And we need Will to continue to get bigger, stronger, continue to balance out the good hitter with power, not either or on any given pitch. And continued improvement defensively.”
Hayes, 22, slashed .265/.336/.415 with 10 homers and 53 RBIs this season for Triple-A Indianapolis. Craig hit 23 homers with 78 RBIs while slashing .249/.326/.435 for the Indians.
Still hope for Archer
Huntington said there are no immediate plans to shut down Chris Archer, who has been on the injured list since Aug. 21 with shoulder inflammation.
“He’s still getting treatments and doing everything he can to get this inflammation out of there,” Huntington said “We’ll keep the door open and adjust accordingly.
“With Chris, we still want to build on all the positives we’ve seen. Velocity was starting to climb, the slider was starting to be where it was when he was so good, and the changeup was becoming a really good pitch for him.
“If he can do it, we’d love him to get out there again. If the shoulder is not going to allow him to (pitch), then you give the young guys the opportunity.”
Scouting department changes
Huntington hinted at further staff changes in player development after the firing of Altoona Curve manager Michael Ryan.
“There have been a few other guys where we’ve talked about different roles with or talked about moving on from and not renewing their contracts,” he said. “It’s out of the public eye, and what we do every year typically is make some changes.
“It’s an opportunity to bring in some new thoughts, ideas and energy. We’ll have a few opportunities to do that this year.”
Of Ryan, he said, “We would welcome the opportunity to have him in a role other than manager. We just felt like in development, the most important part of the day is before the game and after the game. Michael was really good from 7-10 p.m., but our manager demands are different than his strengths at this point in time.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .