Polanco begins rehab assignment in Minors

April 6th, 2019

PITTSBURGH -- After months of rehabilitation and work on the back fields of Pirate City, Gregory Polanco got back on the field Sunday afternoon.

Polanco, nearing the end of his modified Spring Training program after recovering from September surgery on his left shoulder, began a Minor League rehab assignment on Sunday with Class A Advanced Bradenton. Polanco went 0-for-2 with a pair of walks and played all nine innings in right field for the Marauders at LECOM Park in his first affiliated game action since Sept. 7, when he sustained a pair of season-ending injuries on an awkward slide into second base.

Position players can spend up to 20 days on a rehab assignment, and general manager Neal Huntington said the Pirates expect Polanco will use most of that allotted time. The same applies to catcher , who is also rehabbing with Bradenton after being set back this spring by a virus.

“They can change our minds, if they show they’re ready quicker, but there’s a pretty good script in place that we’ll adjust depending on how they feel physically,” Huntington said. “But there is a build-up period that needs to take place, and we would anticipate needing much of the 20 days for both of those guys.”

If all goes well, Polanco will be on the early side of the initial 7-9 month time frame the Pirates laid out for his return. That timetable allowed for potential setbacks that would have pushed his season debut back to June, but the 27-year-old is now in line to return later this month.

“He’s done everything that we’ve asked and then some. He’s put in just a ton of work. No setbacks,” Huntington said. “You’d like to say they go hand-in-hand, that his work caused no setbacks to date -- and we’ll knock on wood with that. The back end has always been a result of setbacks. The front end was the best-case scenario, and to date, we’re looking that right in the face right now.”

Pittsburgh could use Polanco’s power as soon as possible. The right fielder hit a team-leading 23 homers last season while posting a career-best .839 OPS in 130 games. The Bucs are currently without left fielder Corey Dickerson (right shoulder) and outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall (right index finger), which has tested the depth of both their outfield and lineup.

Around the horn

• Right-hander Dovydas Neverauskas, who is on the injured list with a left oblique strain, also began a rehab assignment on Sunday in Bradenton. Neverauskas struck out one batter in a perfect fifth inning.

• Reliever Kyle Crick said on Friday he didn’t expect to be sidelined for long after being placed on the injured list with right triceps tightness, and Huntington confirmed the Pirates were “pretty aggressive” when deciding to shut the right-hander down from throwing. The Pirates will re-evaluate Crick and have him throw a bullpen session in a few days.