BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) — Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco will not travel with the team when it heads north on Thursday for two exhibition games in Montreal.
Polanco, projected to be the Pirates’ starting left fielder, has played in just one spring training game since returning from his run with the Dominican Republic team in the World Baseball Classic, where he hit .579 in five games.
Polanco started experiencing left shoulder discomfort after his spring appearance on March 23 and has not played since. He experienced a similar issue on his throwing shoulder in 2016, and trainer Todd Tomczyk said the team is being especially cautious with his return as a result.
General manager Neal Huntington also said the team has not yet received Polanco’s visa to travel to Canada, which made it an easy decision to keep him behind.
“We feel that we are better off controlling his environment,” Huntington said. “In his case, we were leaning towards that, anyway. But the passport glitch has certainly made that more likely.”
Polanco is expected to hit at the Pirates’ minor league facility on Wednesday, but no timetable for him to return to throwing has been established, putting his readiness for opening day in doubt. The Pirates begin their season April 3 in Boston.
Huntington also announced that the battle for the final rotation spot is down to Tyler Glasnow and Trevor Williams after Steven Brault and Drew Hutchison were optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis.
Hutchison, who came over from the Toronto Blue Jays at the trade deadline in 2016, had a 10.02 ERA in six appearances this spring, including a nine-run outing Tuesday night against the Red Sox. He gave up 21 runs in his last three outings. Huntington said the move was about his entire body of work.
“We’ve seen some flashes of the guy we felt like we were getting when we traded for him, with the crispness of the fastball, the ability to keep it out of the middle of the plate, sharpness of the breaking ball, and a very effective change-up,” Huntington said. “Unfortunately, we’ve also seen way too much of the fastball catching too much of the plate, and the other pitches not being as sharp.”
Glasnow, 23, is one of the team’s top pitching prospects, but he had a hard time adjusting to the majors in his first taste last season. After posting a 1.87 ERA in 20 starts with Indianapolis, he was 0-2 with a 4.24 ERA in seven appearances with the Pirates. Williams, 24, was originally seen as something of a long shot for the role. He had a 7.82 ERA in seven appearances in 2016.
NOTES: Longtime Pirates reliever Jared Hughes was released following a miserable spring training. Hughes put up an 11.57 ERA in 10 appearances. The 31-year-old appeared in 313 games with the Pirates from 2011 to 2016. He will receive $694,672 — 45 days’ termination pay — rather than his $2,825,000 salary.