Bob Smizik: At last -- Polanco!

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Random thoughts on the arrival of Gregory Polanco and the Pirates’ 6-2 win over the Chicago Cubs last night:

• Gregory Polanco will be in uniform for the Pirates tonight but whether he’ll be in the starting lineup remains to be determined. Left-hander Travis Wood is starting for the Cubs. Left-handed batters, and Polanco swings from the left side, are hitting .167 (11-for-66) against Wood with a .460 OPS. Over his career, lefties are batting .206 against Wood. Polanco batted .338 (24-for-71) versus lefties in the International League. Manager Clint Hurdle might wait a day and allow Polanco to debut against right-hander Jason Hammel, who is having an excellent season, 2.53 ERA, .191 BAA. Lefties are hitting .239 against Hammel.

• Was June 10 the magic date when the Pirates were certain Polanco’s Super 2 eligibility had passed? Or was it the appendectomy of Neil Walker that opened a roster spot and prompted the promotion? Walker’s absence opens second base for Josh Harrison, which opens right field for Polanco. The question is: When? Walker’s absence also opens the No. 2 spot in the lineup, which could be filled by Polanco. Or the Pirates could move Harrison down a slot and have Polanco bat first, which was their plan before Walker's injury. Clint Barmes also will get time at second base.

• On Twitter, Polanco posted: “The wait is over. My dream has officially come true. Pittsburgh, see you (Tuesday). Pirates fans, thanks for being patient with me. You guys are awesome!” Classy!

• If the Pirates are to make a move in the standings, now is the time. Their next 25 games are against some of the worst teams in the National League. Between tonight and July 6, they play the Cubs, Marlins, Reds, Cubs, Rays, Mets, Diamondbacks and Phillies. The only team with a winning record in that group is the Marlins, who are three games over .500. The others: Cubs (6 games against) 11 under; Reds (3 games) 4 under; Rays (3 games) 17 under; Mets (4 games) 7 under; Diamondbacks (3 games) 9 under; Phillies (3 games) 11 under. We should know a lot more about the Pirates come July 7.

• For at least the next two weeks, Charlie Morton is the ace of the Pirates staff and he looks to be taking that role seriously. Morton was strong last night -- seven innings, one run, six hits, no walks, seven strikeouts. Three of the six hits did not leave the infield. His record of 3-7 might not show it, but he has pitched well -- not outstanding -- this season. In his past seven starts, he has pitched 44 innings and has an earned run average of 2.25

• What is most amazing about Morton’s performance this season is his ability to handle left-handed hitters. That was long his weakness and it was one of the reasons the Cubs had six left-handed batters in their lineup last night. Morton’s career line against left-handed hitters is: .315/.399/.470 -- .869. This year (before last night) it was: .218/.318/.263 -- .582. That is a stunning turnaround.

• The downside of that upcoming soft schedule is that the Pirates will begin it with a rotation of Morton, Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano, Jeff Locke and Brandon Cumpton. Considering the poor season Liriano is having and the resumes of Volquez, Locke and Cumpton, that is not the rotation of a contender. The Pirates need Gerrit Cole off the DL when his 15 days are up.

• Andrew McCutchen is on a roll and after not hitting a home run in May he is overdue for such a streak. In 35 plate appearances this month, this is McCutchen’s batting line: .375/.429/.938 -- 1.367. He has four homers, six doubles and eight RBIs. And he’s done it without so-called ‘protection.’

• Pedro Alvarez is 12-for-31 (.387) this month in 35 plate appearances with an OPS of 1.005. He has one homer and seven RBIs. The kind of offense McCutchen and Alvarez are supplying can help overcome shortcomings in the rotation. And help overcome the significant loss of Walker.

• Some miscellaneous National League statistics (through Sunday) that might be interesting. The Pirates were tied with Washington for the most errors with 52; Pirates pitchers are 13th in strikeouts and third in walks.

• Harrison is 2-for-19 over the past four games.

• The Pirates are 18-13 since going eight games under .500 with a loss on May 5. If they continue to play at that pace for the remaining 99 games, they will finish with 87 wins.


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