Pittsburgh Pirates' Gregory Polanco drives in two runs with a single off Miami Marlins starting pitcher Brian Flynn during the fourth inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Gene J. Puskar / AP
PITTSBURGH — There was so much hype surrounding Gregory Polanco’s arrival in the major leagues that it seemed he might not be able to live up to it.
He hasn’t. At least, so far.
The Pirates right fielder was struggling so badly in recent weeks that the Pirates optioned him to Class AAA Indianapolis on Monday night before the opener of a three-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park.
Polanco’s slump extended to 1-for-30 over his last nine games Sunday when the 22-year-old went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts in a 4-3 loss to the Brewers at Milwaukee. The plan is for Polanco to return to the Pirates next Tuesday, the day after Indianapolis’ season ends.
“The timing is off on his swing, and I don’t think the best way for him to spend the next week is sitting on the bench,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “This is an opportunity for him to get down, get some at bats and get out of the spotlight that has been here for a week and find his way. I believe he will and he will come back and help this ballclub in September in a positive way.”
Polanco hit .241 with six home runs and 12 stolen bases in 64 games after being called up from Indianapolis on June 10. He had been tearing up the International League, batting .347 with seven homers and 15 steals in 62 games.
“He’s not the first player that’s had to go back down for a little more work,” Hurdle said. “It happened to me after I had been up for a year. This is only going to make him better.”
Travis Snider will take over as the starting right fielder and mercurial outfielder Jose Tabata was called up from Indianapolis to provide right-handed hitting off the bench. Snider was hitting .363 in his last 17 games going into Monday night and had an 11-game hitting streak end last Friday.
“Snider is really emerged and he had been outplaying (Polanco),” Hurdle said. “Travis deserves at bats right now.”
Tabata hit .281 in 39 games with Indianapolis after opening the season with the Pirates and batting .289 in 62 games. He has yet to hit a home run this year in a combined 317 plate appearances between the major leagues and minor leagues.