Pirates notebook: Polanco's hit streak sets club record

CHICAGO -- Gregory Polanco's hitting streak reached 11 games when he beat out an infield single Saturday night in the sixth inning, and set a Pirates record.

It took a short review to confirm he was safe because Polanco originally was called out and jumped up incredulously.

"Yeah. I knew it, because I could feel it when I stepped on the base. That's why I jumped," said Polanco.

With the hit, he became the first Pirates rookie to hit safely in each of his first 11 major league games. Polanco went 0 for 3 Sunday with a walk and stolen base to snap the streak.

As context, Barry Bonds strung together a nine-game hitting streak in his rookie season of 1986, but not out of the gate.

Still, with the rigors of learning the game at the big league level, it has been the last thing on Polanco's mind as he transitions from the minor leagues.

"It's great. But I'm just giving my 100 percent to try to help the team," he said. "Everything I do is about trying to do my job and to get better every day. Just trying to do my job."

Manager Clint Hurdle characterized Polanco as a master craftsman in the making, pointing out how little he's interested in being a star.

"As I've said earlier, some young players are out for stardom. He's not out for stardom. He's out to be a master craftsman," Hurdle said. "Completely different. I don't think he gets overwhelmed with the hype ... it's going to go the other way as soon as it goes the other way. ... There's enough history to see waves will be ridden both ways."

In fact, Hurdle said he likely would not have known about the hitting streak if it weren't for game notes and media bringing it up.

"I get no sense whatsoever that he's savoring the hitting streak," Hurdle said. "I actually saw some discipline [Saturday] in the third at-bat to work that walk. If a guy's hunting a hit that might not have been the outcome he would have got."

Polanco certainly looks the part since being called up, but is nowhere near a finished product yet.

"His hands are full right now. Maybe sometimes as easy as things look, he's got a full plate and it's daily," Hurdle said. "Outfield routes, getting leads and breaks at first. He saw a handful of changeups the other day from [Edwin] Jackson he'd never seen in his entire life as a hitter.

"And there will be more of those sequences that are going to play out throughout the season. Whether it be right-handers, left-handers, whether it be different pitchers. It's all part of the learning experience."

He's taking it in stride.

"He's very in the moment," Hurdle said. "He wants to be able to bunt. He wants to be able to hit and run. He wants to be able to steal second and third. He wants to do all the things a great player can do but he's not in a hurry to be a great player. He's trying to take care of today."

Walker, Marte return

Neil Walker and Starling Marte are expected to rejoin the club for a series opener today against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Walker (appendicitis) played second base for the Bradenton Marauders Sunday and Hurdle said he anticipates he will rejoin the club today.

Marte, who left Saturday to go home to the Dominican Republic for personal reasons, was also expected back.

"I'm going to call him after the game, but in our conversation before he left he had every [intention]," Hurdle said Sunday before the game. "He wants to be back."

Cole, Liriano closer

Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano are showing continued improvement, Hurdle said. Cole will pitch a simulated game today, throwing six innings and 85 pitches. If he continues to progress, he should be on schedule to return to the lineup Saturday.

"One step at a time," Hurdle said. "If we are following step A then Step B would put him on chart for the 28th."

Liriano threw 65 pitches at 100 feet Saturday and got on the mound to do "shadow work," meaning he didn't use a ball.

"We kiddingly asked [pitching coach Ray Searage] how many strikes did he throw?" Hurdle said. "He's making nice positive strides."

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

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