Well, it took an appendectomy, but the Bucs finally decided it was time to begin the Gregory Polanco era in Pittsburgh.
The appendectomy belonged to Neil Walker, who was placed on the DL. Everything began to materialize before the game last night, when the Pirates announced that The Kid had "abdominal pain" and then Indy's lineup, sans Polanco, was posted. He was on the Indy bench as the Pirates awaited word on Walker, and after his surgery, Polanco was on his way to the show.
Gregory, 22, is a big guy, 6'4" and 225 or so pounds, bats & throws lefty, runs like a deer and put up a line of.347/.405/.540 with seven home runs, 49 RBI, and 15 stolen bases over 62 games at AAA. He's on everyone's Top Ten Prospect list, and higher than that on most. We understand that his fielding is often and awesome and sometimes awkward, but hey, he's replacing Josh Harrison, not Roberto Clemente.
That will be the tale for awhile - Josh will slide to second as his Chone Figgins persona gets the test, and Polanco will be protecting the right field pasture.
Polanco has been a cause celebre while tearing up the International League, becoming the poster boy for the smaller revenue clubs watchful eye on Super Two status. There were also legit reasons for him to get some extra work - Josh and JT were playing well, eliminating an immediate need for RF help, and Starling Marte's slump was a cautionary tale for guys rushed through a level. But the benjamins were a major consideration.
The stars finally aligned for Polanco yesterday, and at 111 service days left in the 2014 season, the Super Two worries have been dissipated.
Tonight, the Bucs face a rare lefty, but we doubt that will delay Polanco's introduction; we're curious to see if he bats leadoff, as he did in Indy, or drops into The Kid's two spot.
Walker was batting a .280/.353/.452 on the year with 11 homers and 35 RBI in 62 games and having a breakout year offensively. He and Harrison solidified the top of the order over the past three weeks, and he'll be a tough guy to replace in the lineup. We haven't heard of any complications with his surgery, and if that's the case, he should be good to go, if a little sore, after his 15 days are served.
And speaking of lineups, with Polanco up, JT and Travis Snider make for one outfielder too many, so we'll see how that plays out. We'd expect a resolution pretty quickly, although with Harrison shifting back to the infield, there's no immediate need to shuffle the roster.