MILWAUKEE — Travis Snider’s hitting tear earned him a third consecutive start in right field Friday night as the Pirates opened A critical series against the Milwaukee Brewers. At the same time, the Pirates gave rookie outfielder Gregory Polanco another game off to work on his swing.
“Snider’s been torrid. Thirty-five games left, another day, opportunity for Polanco to get some work done,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “The good side of it is when we’ve had some time to settle him down a little bit, when he has gotten back plugged in he’s been very fresh and usually shows a lot of improvement.”
Hurdle said he wants the rookie to get his swing back to what it was when he was first called up from the minor leagues.
“I think we’re trying to show him the fact once his front foot hits, that his hands are set in a position. There’s been, I think, a little more movement than necessary with his hands,” Hurdle said. “He’s shown now, sometimes you don’t know whether it’s fatigue, whether it’s anxiety, whether it’s the pitches, but they’re pitching him up a lot more. That’s no secret. He’s doing a lot more up-chasing than he had done when he first got here.”
In Polanco’s first weeks in the majors, his swing was more fluid, and the results were a hot start. He hit .260 in the first half, but has hit just .227 after the break.
“We revisit the swings he took the first two weeks he got here, short to the ball, long through it, quick. Almost looked effortless,” Hurdle said. “Then sometimes now, if it is fatigue or if it’s late in the season, sometimes you try and create strength or bat speed with your body or your hands and what that does is degenerate anything you’re trying to accomplish.
“So we’re trying to get him to slow down, just settle down in the box a little bit, be a little more simple with it.”
Snider, meanwhile, has gone 18 for 41 with six doubles, three home runs and seven RBIs in his 11-game hitting streak.
It goes back to his success off the bench after Polanco arrived, Hurdle said.
“You could tell the buy-in, when it started [was] the pinch-hitting when he stopped playing regularly,” Hurdle said. “Said ‘OK, I’m going to get these at-bats. I’ve got to find a plan and a program that’s going to give me an opportunity to be successful with this, to put me in a good position to hit.’ And he’s been able to multiply that and carry that into the batting practice he takes now.
“[They] are night and day. You watch a videotape from batting practice session last year, this year, just a little more mature, professional.”
Pimentel makes progress
Stolmy Pimentel pitched one scoreless inning for Class AA Altoona Thursday in the first game appearance of his rehabilitation assignment, but it was a good one.
“It was only nine pitches, 23 to warm up. Fastball velocity was good,” Hurdle said. “He threw some sliders and he threw a couple changeups. For what it was worth, it was the first time on the mound. It was good.”
Pimentel will next pitch back-to-back, one-inning outings Monday and Tuesday for Altoona before expanding to a two-inning outing at a yet to be determined site.
Pimentel went on the disabled list Aug. 15 with a sprained ankle. He is eligible to return Aug. 31.
Cole gets high marks
Gerrit Cole responded well physically and his confidence was high Wednesday after his return to the mound.
“Felt very good physically,” Hurdle said. “Obviously, the mental confidence to walk away from it, to pitch against a lineup that had hit us around the ballpark first couple of nights in,” Hurdle said.
“To make pitches to both right-handers and left-handers. Used all his pitches with confidence, used his breaking stuff, secondary pitches in offensive counts for the hitters as well. Fastball velocity was firm and solid, as good as we’ve seen from him in a long time, one through seven. ”
New task for Tony Sanchez
Catcher Tony Sanchez made the first career start at first base for Class AAA Indianapolis Friday, but whether or not that was a directive from Pittsburgh is unclear. Before the game against the Brewers, Hurdle said he was not aware of the move.
Jenn Menendez firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @JennMenendez.