At this point it seems like all Gregory Polanco has to do is stay upright and he’ll be in right field by midsummer.
The Pittsburgh Pirates’ top position prospect launched a solo home run in the first inning of his 2014 Grapefruit League debut Thursday, just the latest example of his many talents. Polanco, 22, rammed a breaking ball from Yankees starter David Phelps over the right field wall at Tampa’s Steinbrenner Field to open the scoring in an 8-2 Pirates victory:
Polanco hit just 12 combined home runs across three leagues during his ascendant 2013, but the scouting consensus seems to be that his power will develop as he gets stronger and his swing mechanics refine. Even though Polanco has played a grand total of two games above the Double-A level, it would be surprising if he doesn’t make an appearance in Pittsburgh this season.
Fellow minor-league outfielder Mel Rojas blasted a three-run homer in the eighth to help decide the game. Matt Hague had a two-run single, while Chris Dickerson and Alen Hanson also produced runs for the Bucs, now 2-0 in exhibition play.
On the pitching side, Charlie Morton threw two perfect innings and Jeff Locke followed with two scoreless of his own. Brandon Cumpton ran into some trouble in the sixth and was relieved before completing two frames.
The Pirates send 23-year-old ace-in-waitin Gerrit Cole to the mound to start Friday’s Grapefruit game against Toronto. Former first-round pick Jameson Taillon is also scheduled to pitch, hoping to have an outing like Polanco did Thursday.
First pitch against the Blue Jays from Dunedin, Fla., is at 1:05 Eastern time.