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IL notes: Polanco still has work to do

Despite torrid start, Pirates top prospect working on running game
April 21, 2014

Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor heard the whispers about Gregory Polanco.

"I know there was a lot of talk in Spring Training that he was going to make the [Major League] club," Treanor said of the Pirates' top prospect. "But he's here for a reason: He still has a few things to work on."

While the 22-year-old outfielder may have been disappointed that he was not on Pittsburgh's Opening Day roster, he said he realized he could not let that affect his play in Indianapolis.

"I had to put [not making the Pirates] behind me," he said. "I realized I just have to keep working, so I can be there soon."

So far, the native of the Dominican Republic has let his bat do the talking. Polanco leads the International League with a .406 batting average, thanks in large part to an IL-best 26 hits in 16 games. He's also tied for third with 16 RBIs and has a pair of home runs.

"I'm just working to get ready [for the Major Leagues]," Polanco said. "Before the games, I'm working on getting my hands ready to hit the ball and working on hitting the ball to the opposite field."

Treanor said the early returns on Polanco's offensive abilities have been positive.

"He has an idea of what the strike zone is, but he still can learn to look for pitches in different situations," Treanor said. "He can learn when to be aggressive and when not to be aggressive."

Another area in which Treanor said Polanco can improve is in the running game. The 6-foot-4, 222-pounder has just one stolen base and has been caught three times.

"The thing that has been glaring is that he has been blessed with speed, so base running has to become a bigger part of his package," Treanor said. "He's got to get a feel for what he can and cannot do. He also has to learn situations: when should he run and what should he look for from pitchers in different situations."

Polanco also is working to learn right field, a position he has not played much in his professional career. Last season, for example, he played 117 games in center field on his rise from Class A Advanced Bradenton to Indianapolis, compared to only six games in right.

Of course, the Pirates do not need a center fielder, thanks to National League MVP Andrew McCutchen.

"I'm trying to get more comfortable in right field," Polanco said. "I have a better chance to get up there playing right field, so I'm trying to get as comfortable there as I can."

Treanor preaches patience with Polanco, noting that he played in only two regular-season games with the Indians last season before going 1-for-12 in the Governors' Cup playoffs.

"He only had a very short look here last year," Treanor said. "You want to see if he can get his feet on the ground here and make some strides. If he does, then [the Pirates] will have a decision to make."

Polanco said he felt no pressure to reach the big leagues during Spring Training, and does not feel that pressure now.

"I feel good right now," he added. "I don't feel a lot of pressure. The pressure I feel is to keep working hard every day and to get better. I'm trying to do the best I can every day, every game, every pitch. There's not pressure; I'm just pushing to get better and smarter every day."

In brief

Carroll cruising: Charlotte RHP Scott Carroll posted three wins in his first three starts for the Knights -- and he didn't give up an earned run in any of the three. Carroll checked Norfolk on five hits over six scoreless innings on April 3, then allowed two unearned runs on April 8 at Durham. In his first home start, Carroll gave up three hits and a walk in seven shutout innings on April 13 against the Tides. For the season, the 29-year-old right-hander is 3-1 with a 1.57 ERA in four starts.

Bunching them: Toledo OF J.D. Martinez seems to hit his home runs in bunches. He went yard twice on April 13 at Louisville, then homered again the next day. An even bigger streak began April 18 when Martinez homered at Columbus, then had four homers in a doubleheader against the Clippers the following day -- three in the first game and another in the second. Martinez leads all Minor Leaguers with 10 homers and is batting .308 with an IL-best 22 RBIs.

He said it: "You don't ever think you'll be one of those guys [who moves around a lot]. Last season tested me. Sometimes that's how careers go. The good thing is I'm still in a position that teams want me. As long as you are wanted, you are in the game." -- Syracuse LHP Aaron Laffey to the Syracuse Post-Standard on April 17 after throwing five shutout innings against Lehigh Valley in the second game of a doubleheader.

He said it, part II: "That's the funny thing about baseball. It's one of those cliches where you can't worry about your past at-bats because you never know how important your next at-bat could be." -- Scranton/Wilkes-Barre infielder Russ Canzler to the Scranton Times-Tribune on April 13. He was 0-for-5 entering his eighth-inning at-bat in the second game of a twinbill against Syracuse, but his single brought home the winning run in a 2-1 victory.

John Wagner is a contributor to