Pirates notebook: Polanco's record vs. left-handers catches Hurdle's eye



Gregory Polanco made his long-awaited Pirates debut from the No. 2 spot in the batting order Tuesday night while second baseman Neil Walker recovered from an appendectomy.

Walker has been the club's most consistent hitter this season and will be a loss.

"It's a hit," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. "[Walker] has been an anchor in the lineup. He's been very consistent in the lineup, very consistent in the field, been a very good ballplayer for us. On that aspect, you've got to go to your depth. Next man up."

Hurdle said he slotted Polanco into Walker's spot because of the skill set he flashed in the minor leagues. Polanco hit .347, with 17 doubles, 5 triples, 7 home runs, 49 RBIs and 15 stolen bases this season.

"It just looked right," said Hurdle. "With Walker's absence now, you're looking for some offense to supplement what's been taken away for a period of time. You've got a guy with bat-to-ball strengths, strike-zone discipline strengths, an ability to run, an on-base percentage guy throughout his career."

The Pirates faced a left-handed starter Tuesday night in the Cubs' Travis Wood, but Polanco, who bats left-handed, has fared well against left-handed pitching as evidenced by his minor league statistics this season. He hit .338, with a .413 on-base percentage and .838 on-base plus slugging against left-handers.

"So far, his mindset at the plate is such he's been a guy that has had a stubborn approach since he entered the game," said Hurdle. "He's known one way to hit ... and that's to stay inside the ball to the point of impact and focus on left-center field. "

Exactly how well that will translate at the major league level is, of course, unknown.

"But, from all the reports and what we've seen," Hurdle added, "there hasn't been a lot of give in his swing or an adjustment versus a left-handed pitcher, versus the approach he has with a right-handed pitcher."

Polanco, who spoke in a pre-game news conference, said he was told by his new teammates to be the same guy he always has been when he lines up in right field in front of the Clemente Wall.

He also said that "I feel proud to play where somebody like [Roberto] Clemente played. I'm going to be so proud, I'm going to be so happy to play there."

Infield shuffled

Clint Barmes got a rare start at second base in Walker's absence as Hurdle shifted leadoff batter Josh Harrison to third and gave Pedro Alvarez a day off. Harrison, however, is likely to get the bulk of reps at second and continue to bat from the top of the order. Alvarez always has struggled against Wood, going 1 for 18 with seven strikeouts against him.

Cole update

Gerrit Cole threw from 60 feet off flat ground Monday, but there was no progress report other than it went well.

"We were going to wait and see how he feels [Tuesday] and then map out the next step. He was out there running around," said Hurdle.

Hurdle said he had no date yet for when Cole might get back on the mound, but anticipates another flat-ground opportunity to stretch him out and throw for some distance.

Jenn Menendez: jmenendez@post-gazette.com and Twitter @JennMenendez.


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