Pirates rookie outfielder Gregory Polanco was optioned Monday to the Class AAA Indianapolis Indians, but his stay in the minors could be brief as he is expected to return next week when rosters expand in September.
Polanco, who is mired in 1-for-30 slump, has seen his batting average slide to .241 and he has 50 strikeouts (to only 25 walks) in 249 at bats.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said that this was a good time for Polanco to go to the minors to get “a volume of at-bats” in order to work out some things with his swing outside of the spotlight of being in a postseason race.
He said the move was made easier by the way that Travis Snider, who has been hot in recent weeks, has played because it meant Polanco wasn’t likely to see many at-bats.
“[Polanco’s] at-bats over the last three weeks, Snider’s emergence, he is outplaying him and this is an important time for the team and all the individuals that are involved here to find a way to help,” Hurdle said. “The timing is off on his swing and I don’t think the best way for him to spend the next week is sitting on the bench.
“This is an opportunity for him to get down, get some at-bats and get out of the spotlight that has been here for a week and find his way, and I believe he will and he will come back and help this ballclub in September in a positive way.”
Hurdle emphasized that Polanco will be back Sept. 2 when he is eligible to come back but said the Pirates could keep him in Class AAA a little longer. Polanco still would be eligible for the playoff roster because he is on the 40-man roster.
Barmes, Tabata back
The Pirates recalled Jose Tabata from Class AAA Indianapolis and he will serve as the fourth outfielder. The Pirates also activated Clint Barmes from disabled list.
Tabata began the season with the Pirates and hit .289 (41 for 142) with 14 RBIs in 62 games before being sent to Class AAA Indianapolis June 24.
In 39 games with the Indians, Tabata hit .281 (41 for 146) with 12 RBIs but he was hot of late as he hit safely in seven of his past eight games (13 for 30, .433) and in 12 of the past 16 (22 for 62, .355).
Hurdle said the return of Tabata and Barmes will strengthen the bench for the stretch run.
In order to make room for Tabata on the 40-man roster, the Pirates designated infielder Jayson Nix for assignment. Barmes had been on the disabled list since July 6 (retroactive to June 30) with a left groin strain.
Pitcher Francisco Liriano, who started Monday night, had been the staff ace in 2013 and was expected to be the same this year. But he has been inconsistent and has had a hard time stringing together strong outings.
Hurdle was asked why Liriano has had such an inconsistent season and he said Liriano’s health has been the main issue. The left-hander has spent time on the disabled list because of an oblique strain.
Liriano is healthy now and Hurdle hopes Liriano can find his form down the stretch.
“I did not feel that he was completely healthy until after the second stint on the DL, or I should say this last time, when he came off it was the first time that I felt like he was 100 percent healthy since opening day,” Hurdle said. “And the other challenge has been with some consistency in the stretch. This year it has been more of a challenge for him than it was last year and actually has been what you might have seen from him in other seasons in previous places. It has just been a challenge for him pitching out of a stretch with the overall command of his pitches.”
The Jamestown Jammers, a Pirates short-season Class A affiliate, will move to Morgantown, W.Va., next summer and play in the new ballpark currently under construction.
The team, which will be named via fan contest later this year, will share the stadium with the West Virginia University baseball team.
Paul Zeise: email@example.com, 412-263-1720 and Twitter @paulzeise.
First Published August 25, 2014 10:30 AM