Top prospect Polanco to make anticipated debut
Pirates make room for phenom by placing Walker on 15-day disabled list
PITTSBURGH -- Gregory Polanco's time has come.
The outfielder got his call from the Pirates -- and possibly from his destiny -- late Monday night and was wheeling over from Lehigh Valley to step into PNC Park's right field.
Polanco arrives with no more Triple-A experience than the last time Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington opined he needed more exposure at Minor League's highest level -- on Sunday.
"Our goal is to bring him here when we feel it's the right time," Huntington had said. "In an ideal world, we'd like to get him some more plate appearances down there. What he's doing has allowed us to shorten that time frame a little bit."
An unforeseen element of urgency closed that time frame Monday, when second baseman Neil Walker underwent an appendectomy and had to be placed on the 15-day disabled list.
The connection to Polanco is that Josh Harrison, who essentially has been taking Polanco's position for two weeks and performing in an irremovable manner, can now move into the infield and take Walker's place.
And that created an opening for Polanco, who has used his 257 at-bats with Indianapolis to erect an impressive platform.
Polanco, who will wear No. 25 for the Pirates, will bring a .347 average, a .945 OPS, seven homers and 15 steals. He also comes with no chance of accruing the 2014 playing time that would have made him a Super Two, four-time arbitration player.
After a week of interning as a leadoff hitter with the Indians, Polanco is expected to bat No. 2 against the Cubs, even though left-hander Travis Wood is Chicago's scheduled starter Tuesday night.
Only Sunday, Huntington had called Harrison a "spark plug" who could influence Polanco's place in the lineup.
"It's hard to take that spark plug out of the lineup," the GM had said. "That'd be a great thing, to be able to drop Gregory to a less demanding role. If Josh continues to play the way he has and the offense continues to roll the way it has in the last five to six weeks, Gregory can come in and be a guy. He doesn't have to be the guy."
But Polanco has been the guy all season, the guy for whom all sectors -- fans, scouts, media -- have been clamoring.
In 2011, Polanco was a skinny kid batting .229 between Rookie League and low-A ball. He even started last season in Class A Bradenton, then stepping-stoned through Double-A to Triple-A before "matriculating" by being named both Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in the tough Dominican Winter League.
After that winter breakthrough, Polanco took off on his first extensive Triple-A experience without skipping a beat, batting nearly .500 in April and cooling only slightly since.
While acing the batter's box, Polanco also has passed the test in right field, a position he played regularly for the first time in getting ready for his big league bow, with Andrew McCutchen established in the Bucs' center field.
Shortly before the Pirates formally announced Polanco's promotion, he himself had made the revelation via Twitter:
"My dream has officially come true. Pittsburgh, see you manana!!"
The wait is over.... My dream has officially come true ⚾? Pittsburgh, see you mañana!!- Gregory Polanco ☕? (@El_Coffee) June 10, 2014
To which his now former club, channeling "Jerry Maguire," responded:
"Just shut up. You had us at Polanco."
Chances are, he'll have Pittsburgh at "Batting second, playing right field ...."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.