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Polanco returns to lineup feeling stronger

Special to MLB.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Right fielder Gregory Polanco was back in the lineup for Sunday's 9-3 win over the Twins. He had been out since bruising his left knee sliding into third base during Wednesday's game against the Red Sox.

Polanco went 1-for-3 at the plate, playing five defensive innings.

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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Right fielder Gregory Polanco was back in the lineup for Sunday's 9-3 win over the Twins. He had been out since bruising his left knee sliding into third base during Wednesday's game against the Red Sox.

Polanco went 1-for-3 at the plate, playing five defensive innings.

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"A lot better," Polanco said of his knee. "No pain, thank God."

Polanco focused his offseason workouts on his lower body, following some ailments the last few seasons.

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"I really needed to get my lower body stronger and that's what I did in the offseason," he said. "That was my main focus. And I feel good, I feel strong."

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He's noticed the difference this spring.

"Oh, yeah, for sure, because I lost some weight and I feel stronger," he said. "I feel quicker, too. Stronger, and if I'm stronger, I can do better on the field."

So, the injury on Wednesday initially gave him some concern.

"Oh, yeah, for sure," he said. "I was like, 'Oh, no, already?' But, thank God, it wasn't that bad, just a little bruise but now it feels good. I'm thankful to be OK and to play."

Brault strong

Left-hander Steven Brault went two scoreless innings with one strikeout.

"He pitched well," manager Clint Hurdle said. "One strikeout, quick efficient innings, 29 pitches. So, pitch efficiency was there. He did have four three-ball counts -- not to pick -- but he looked good. And it was through their A-team lineup. Got to face some left-handers. The changeup and slider combination worked well. He pitched inside well."

Brault went 1-0 with a 4.67 ERA in 11 games (four starts) for the Pirates last season, and 10-5 with a 1.94 ERA in 21 games (20 starts) at Triple-A. There are still some things Hurdle would like to see from him.

"Development of his secondary pitches, fastball command, the ability to get the ball glove-side with his fastball, the ability to throw changeups to right-handed hitters, and the ability to improve, enhance his pick-off move, control the running game, even though he's left-handed," Hurdle said. "He's still learning. He had a fantastic season last year at Triple-A, and there's things that he can still pick up on."

Diaz feeling the power

Video: PIT@MIN: Diaz gives Pirates the lead with homer

Catcher Elias Diaz slugged a three-run home run in the sixth inning to put the Pirates ahead for good. It has been a trying time for Diaz, who had to deal with the kidnapping of his mother back in his native Venezuela. She returned safely, with Diaz now able to focus on being in camp with the team.

Up next

Right-hander Chad Kuhl is scheduled to start Monday when the Pirates travel to Lake Buena Vista, Fla., to face the Braves at 1:05 p.m. ET. This will be his second start, following two perfect innings against the Red Sox last Wednesday. Felipe Rivero, Trevor Williams, Dovydas Neverauskas and Tyler Jones are also expected to pitch. Right-hander Brandon McCarthy is scheduled to start for the Braves. Listen to the game on Gameday Audio.

Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com.

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