Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Polanco Lands in Good Spot Hurdle Sees Of's Progress in Field as Well as at Plate

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Polanco Lands in Good Spot Hurdle Sees Of's Progress in Field as Well as at Plate

Article excerpt

The rhythms of a 162-game baseball season can impact the most talented and promising players, dragging them through doubt and then thrusting them into ecstasy.

Early in the final month of the regular season, Gregory Polanco is experiencing the latter.

The Pirates right fielder has gotten at least one hit in 11 of the team's past 13 games. In that span, he is hitting .314 - after batting just .238 in his team's previous 124 games - with an on-base percentage of .451, a slugging percentage of .608 and an OPS of 1.059.

That hot streak, as manager Clint Hurdle sees it, isn't a product of happenstance or a progression to the mean during a long season.

But it is an important sign of growth.

"I think there's just maturity in a lot of different places in his game," Hurdle said. "I think he's separating his glove and his bat very well.

"I think he's separating his at-bats very well. He's not carrying the collateral damage of one at-bat into the next at-bat or one game into the next game.

"He's pretty much compartmentalizing what's going on at the time. He's been very good at being in the now."

Specific instances come to Hurdle's mind when he cites that maturity.

Perhaps the most recent one came in a 5-3 loss Saturday to the Atlanta Braves. Polanco failed to get on base in each of his first two at-bats - striking out on three pitches in the first one - but he stepped to the plate in the sixth and belted a 95 mph fastball to deep center for a go-ahead home run that was his 22nd of the season, matching a career high.

Of late, Hurdle said, Polanco has been a run-producer and a run-scorer, one who consistently attacks left-handed pitchers and finds a way to get on base against them.

For the once-touted prospect, who still has potential inside his wiry 6-foot-5 frame, it's an encouraging development as the season slowly nears its end.

OUTFIELD TINKERING

With the Pirates gradually falling further out of the race for a playoff spot, Hurdle said Monday that the team will "probably" give some players the opportunity for starts in the outfield beyond the customary trio of Polanco, Starling Marte and Corey Dickerson. …

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