Pirates notebook: Shoulder sidelines Polanco; Marte leaves game with apparent ankle injury
BRADENTON, Fla. — The Pirates got their center fielder back Saturday but lost their two corner outfielders.
Right fielder Gregory Polanco was scratched before the game against the Tampa Bay Rays because of a sore right shoulder. Left fielder Starling Marte left the game in the fourth inning because of right quad tightness.
Andrew McCutchen, who missed Friday's game against the Boston Red Sox because of a tight quad, started and batted second.
In the second inning, Marte caught his cleat in the dirt and fell as he tried to run out a ground ball. He went gingerly to the dugout, then took his position in the outfield. He was replaced by Tito Polo in the fourth inning.
Polanco was benched by a flare-up of an injury he suffered in 2013 while playing for High-A Bradenton.
“Just a little sore,” Polanco said. “I've had this for three years, so it's nothing new. It happened once last year. I'll be OK for (Sunday's game).”
Polanco might have aggravated his shoulder in the sixth inning of Friday's game against the Red Sox when he tried to make a diving catch of David Murphy's double.
No surgery for Diaz
Elias Diaz remains out of action due to lateral right elbow discomfort but said he does not expect surgery to be necessary.
“I was worried before but not now,” Diaz said. “I know that I'm going to be good if I take the time I need to be heathy again. I don't need surgery, just rest and treatment.”
Before the injury. Diaz was on track to open the season as the starting catcher at Triple-A Indianapolis. The team has not announced a timetable for when he might resume baseball activities.
“I can't do anything right now,” he said. “I'm just working my lower body.”
When the pain flared up a couple of weeks ago, Diaz tried to play through it.
“I felt this before but not as bad as it is now,” Diaz said. “That's why I went to the trainers.”
Luebke: Stay or go?
Cory Luebke realizes he has put the Pirates in a tough spot.
When he signed in February, the lefty reliever got two escape clauses in his contract. The first deadline is Tuesday, when Luebke can opt out if he's not guaranteed a spot on the opening day roster.
If Luebke chooses to stay and is optioned to the minors, there is an “upward mobility” clause that would allow him to leave if another team offers him a spot on its big league roster by July 1.
On Saturday morning, as he packed his gear for the road game against the Minnesota Twins, Luebke was unsure what will happen over the next 72 hours.
“I'd love to stay here, but that's (management's) decision,” Luebke said. “I'm feeling good, and I think I can help. But this team knows how to pitch, so it's not easy to just get plugged into this bullpen. And I didn't help anything by cutting the six-week evaluation process by a third.”
Three days into camp, Luebke strained a hamstring during a workout at Pirate City. He wasn't able to pitch in a Grapefruit League game until 10 days ago.
Through four outings, Luebke's stuff has looked sharp — the fastball is buzzing at 94 mph, and the slider is effective.
Those are positive signs, considering Luebke has not pitched in the majors since 2012. He has endured two Tommy John surgeries, an operation on a nerve in his arm and a staph infection.
“The most frustrating thing (about the hamstring injury) was it cut short my spring training when I needed more than in any other year,” Luebke said. “I've been pretty happy with how things have progressed. I'm in a good spot.”
And that puts general manager Neal Huntington in a tight spot. Eric O'Flaherty also is pitching well, and the Pirates might not have room for three left-handers (including Tony Watson) in the bullpen.
Luebke is scheduled to work another inning Sunday — another chance to make an impression before Tuesday's deadline.
“I know there's a business side to everything,” Luebke said. “But just going out, throwing and feeling good has been a relief for me. You don't realize how much you miss something until it's taken from you. That's what the last 3 1⁄2 years have been like. I'll go out and throw, and whatever happens, I'm excited just to be out there competing again.”
Juan Nicasio will start with a 100-pitch limit Sunday in a minor league game at Pirate City. The righty originally was set to pitch Sunday night against the Minnesota Twins, a duty that goes to minor league call-up Trevor Williams.
The assignment switch might indicate Nicasio is closer to cementing a spot in the starting rotation.
Planet of the aches
Michael Morse (right leg) shagged fly balls during batting practice but is expected to be held out of game action for another couple of days. He was injured while running the bases Thursday.
To comply with an MLB mandate, the Pirates hired Mike Gonzalez as special assistant to the general manager for cultural initiatives. Gonzalez will translate for Spanish-speaking players to the media, coaches, staff and front-office executives.
Gonzalez was born in Puerto Rico but spent his teenage years in Tampa. “Growing up, I heard so much about Roberto Clemente, and he became a role model of mine,” Gonzalez said. “It's funny how things work out sometimes.”
Police charged a man with assault after he ran onto the field during the Pirates' game against the Rays.
During the seventh inning, the man went through the stands behind third base and ran onto the grass in front of the Rays' dugout. Witnesses say the man yelled obscenities about the Castro regime in Cuba and the Rays' recent exhibition game there. The man then threw a full can of beer into the Rays' dugout.
“Nobody got hit,” Rays pitcher Jake Odorizzi said. “Maybe some guys got wet.”
Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer saw the incident unfold from the Pirates' dugout.
“I just heard a loud boom, and I saw beer fly,” Mercer said. “You never know what's going to happen. But law enforcement was on it, which was good. And the Rays players were, too, so they helped out.”
A Pirates grounds crew member and Rays third base coach Charlie Montoyo restrained the man until police arrived.
“I realized he speaks Spanish, so I was telling him to relax,” Montoyo said. “I didn't hear what he was yelling. He looked old, so I kind of felt bad for him. I was holding him and not trying to tackle him.”
According to the Bradenton police Lt. John Affolter, the man, whom police did not immediately identify, will be charged with causing a fray, trespassing and assault.
“I've worked games here for 23 years, and I've never seen anything like it,” Affolter said. “I've seen a streaker, I've seen a lot. I thought I'd seen it all.”
On Tuesday, the Rays played the Cuban national team in Havana. President Barack Obama attended the game, the first visit to the Communist nation by a sitting American president in 88 years.