Gregory Polanco has finally arrived in Pittsburgh. The most anticipated talent in the Pirates farm system since Andrew McCutchen will make his major league debut Tuesday night against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park. Polanco will take the place on the roster of second baseman Neil Walker who went on the 15-day disabled list after an appendectomy Monday.
Polanco’s arrival has long been anticipated by the Pirates faithful but he has been held back as the Pirates tried to project his date as a Super Two free agent. Simply put, Pittsurgh General Manager Neil Huntington was waiting so the club had another year of salary control of Polanco. By delaying his arrival the Pirates have also delayed the time when Polanco will become arbitration eligible. Walker’s surgery coincides with the date of Polanco’s status but make no mistake, if the Pirates were not certain of the date Polanco could arrive without disrupting his time as Super Two then Polanco would still be playing minor league baseball.
The five-star talent is considered one of the elite prospects in baseball and played center field until this season at AAA Indianapolis where the Pirates started grooming him to be their right fielder because of McCutchen’s presence in center field. He figures to be the Pirates right fielder for the foreseeable future. Another concession Polanco will make? His spot in the batting order. Polanco has been the No. 3 hitter in the lineup throughout his minor league career. That will change now as McCutchen holds that spot in Pittsburgh. A couple of weeks ago the Pirates began grooming him as a possible lead-off hitter at Indianapolis.
“There are some things we’re trying to get him used to. Right field is obviously a big one, and that’s gone well,” Huntington said last month. ” I don’t know that he’s going to hit third for us. … The last time I checked we’ve got a pretty good guy there.”
The arrival of Polanco will end the cries for his presence on the Pirates roster as fans have been demanding his presence since the beginning of the season. That demand only grew as the season wore on for the Pirates and Polanco. They have been experiencing two different types of seasons. Polanco dominated at Indianapolis while Pittsburgh has struggled. A team with huge holes on offense could have used the kind of talent Polanco provides a long time ago. But Huntington was steadfast in not promoting Polanco, citing needed seasoning for the young outfielder in AAA.
Huntington’s rationale held little credibility with Pirate fans as Huntington had offered Polanco a major league contract in mid-May that would have triggered the promotion of Polanco immediately and also given Huntington the salary control he wanted over Polanco. Polanco balked, Huntington refused to promote him and like a kid at Christmas, Pirate fans had to wait for their new star.
Finally, Gregory Polanco has arrived and as much as his presence will be rejoiced in Pittsburgh, if he plays the way experts think he will and can get the Pirates back into the National League Central division race then Huntington will likely face more scrutiny for his decision to keep him down. Obviously this was done with the approval if not the mandate of Pirates ownership but not manager Clint Hurde, who had made it known he was ready for Polanco a long time ago.
Commentary by Mick Varner
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer