Polanco, Hanson friends on, off field

Pittsburgh's top two hitting prospects combine for eight hits

Gregory Polanco has six homers in 41 Florida State League games. (Cliff Welch/MiLB.com)

By Ashley Marshall / Special to MLB.com | May 22, 2013 7:46 PM ET

Pittsburgh prospects Gregory Polanco and Alen Hanson have been on similar paths for a couple years now in more ways than one.

On Wednesday, it seemed fitting that their games mirrored each other too.

Polanco collected four hits, including a homer and a double, while plating three runs and scoring three times while Hanson was 4-for-5 with two triples, a double, three runs scored and an RBI in the Class A Advanced Bradenton Marauders' 12-4 rout of the visiting Tampa Yankees.

"I think it was good. I was just working hard and doing what I had to do," said Polanco, MLB.com's No. 60 prospect. "I think [this lineup] is fun. I feel very comfortable because we all played together last year."

It maked the second four-hit game this season for both players, who each had a chance to hit for the cycle in his final at-bat.

Baseball's No. 50 prospect Hanson doubled and scored in the first inning and he singled to right field in the second. The shortstop then tripled in the seventh and scored on Polanco's RBI single back up the middle.

Polanco, meanwhile, hit an RBI double and scored in the first before hitting a solo homer to right field to lead off the third.

"[Scottie Allen] threw me a two-seamer low and a changeup low and after that he didn't to throw me anything inside," Polanco said of his first-inning double. "I hit it the opposite way to the left-center field gap.

"[In the third inning], he threw me four sliders in a row. A slider for a ball, then a slider down. A slider again that I missed, then he threw me another one and I hit it out of the ballpark. I knew it was gone because I hit it good and on the barrel of the bat."

Both players needed some help to get a shot at the cycle in the eighth, with Hanson due up fourth and Polanco set to bat sixth. Then Elias Diaz walked, Chris Lashmet was hit by a pitch and Dan Grovatt scored Diaz with a sacrifice fly.

Hanson, needing a homer, ripped his second triple in as many innings. Two batters later, Polanco, short by a triple, beat out an infield single to lift his average to .325.

Polanco and Hanson were born 13 months apart and raised within 80 miles of each other on the Dominican Republic's southern coast. There are 10 positions between them in MLB.com's Top 100 list and they are ranked alongside one another in the Pirates' organizational ranking.

Hanson, ranked third among Pirates prospects, is the organization's top infield prospect, while Polanco, just one spot lower, is the No. 1 outfielder on their farm.

"I like Hanson. He's like my little brother," said Polanco, the middle of five children with two younger sisters and two older brothers. "We live together and he is close to me.

"He's a very good player. He's got some power, he can hit and he can run. He's improving a lot. He's talented and I think he can play in the big leagues."

The 21-year-old Polanco was signed by the Pirates as a nondrafted free agent in 2009, just three months before the organization inked switch-hitting shortstop Hanson, 20.

Born and raised in Santo Domingo less than two hours west of Hanson's home town of La Romana, Polanco got his first taste of pro ball a little earlier than Hanson, but they have been teammates ever since.

The pair -- who knew each other from back home the year before they signed -- spent the season together with the Pirates' Rookie-level Gulf Coast League affiliate in 2011 and were promoted to short-season State College within a day of each other at the end of the season.

They then spent all of 2012 in the Class A South Atlantic League with West Virginia and they were both assigned to Brevard County at the start of this year.

Polanco is helping Hanson to learn English, while Hanson is a familiar face whom Polanco can turn to when he's feeling homesick.

"When I talk with my mother and my father, I feel a lot better," said Polanco, who started learning English in the Dominican Republic, but only got fully immersed in it when he moved to America permanently in 2010. "I feel more comfortable and more confident in myself. With my father, he calls me every day. My mother, she calls me maybe four times a week.

"It's hard for me. I miss my family, but that's how I'm going to make it and get better. I want to help my family and I have to be here if I want to get to the big leagues. They are going to be so proud of me. My mother tells me I'm the best and that I'm going to get to where I want to go."

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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