At the end of last week I posted a video of Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, and Gregory Polanco taking batting practice together. It was a nice sight to see those three rotating in the batting cages together, since they could eventually make up the best outfield trio in the majors. McCutchen is already an MVP, Marte posted a 4.6 WAR in his first full season, and Polanco looks like an impact talent who should arrive by mid-season 2014.
Polanco is the only player in that group who doesn’t project to make the Opening Day roster. The Pirates will send him to Triple-A to work on his hitting against upper level pitchers, get re-acclimated to playing in right field, and of course to keep his service time and Super Two status to the point where they will have him for an extra year of control, and won’t have to pay him a fourth year of arbitration. It has been interesting that Polanco has been paired so often with McCutchen, Marte, and the rest of the guys projected to make the Opening Day roster, since he doesn’t have that same projection. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said the pairing was to keep Polanco with McCutchen and Marte.
“You’ve got one guy that speaks the language, does a little bit more English. You’ve got a guy, Polanco, following the trail that Marte established, which basically McCutchen established first,” Hurdle said. “They’re three in-house guys who continually move the chains, set the bar high, the work ethic is good. When you’ve got McCutchen in play — similar to Liriano and Volquez — you’ve got a guy like that leading the group daily in all activity. Keeps the flow at a very good pace, the intensity at a very good pace, and that’s basically just it.”
Eventually those three will be together in the PNC outfield for good. For now, it’s good to have them getting used to being together, and it provides a nice preview of the future.
**Jason Grilli has been preparing for the season slower than other pitchers this Spring. The approach is to maintain Grilli’s health and avoid burning him out early in the season. Hurdle talked today about when Grilli might be ready for game action.
“We’re still waiting a little bit,” Hurdle said on getting Grilli into game action. “He’s right on target with where we want him to be right now. We’re monitoring his progress, as well as everybody else’s, but he’s in a very good place.”
**”We don’t have any setbacks to this date,” Hurdle on the team, and specifically on Francisco Liriano being scheduled for only one inning in his start. Liriano will only throw one inning, as opposed to two for everyone else, because he threw two innings on the side the other day.