PITTSBURGH -- If they hadn't acquired Corey Dickerson during Spring Training, Jordan Luplow might have been the Pirates' starting left fielder this season. With Gregory Polanco injured, Luplow might play regularly the rest of the season. But nights like Friday represent his best chance to stick in the Majors next year.
Luplow came off the bench and ripped a go-ahead homer to right-center field off hard-throwing Marlins reliever Tayron Guerrero in Friday's 5-3 win over Miami. It was his first Major League homer as a substitute; his first five came in games he started. Luplow said his previous pinch-hitting experience helped prepare him.
"Always being ready," he said. "Just being ready when your name's called."
At this point, the 24-year-old looks like a natural fit as the Pirates' fourth outfielder heading into next season. He can play right and left field and bats right-handed, complementing the lefty-swinging Dickerson and Polanco.
"He's a good ballplayer. I've said that before about him. I like the ballplayer," manager Clint Hurdle said on Friday. "I like the focus of the young man. He's had to earn things every step of the way, and he's continuing to stay hungry and wants to earn something up here."
Earning a role is one thing. Keeping one will be another. Many young players struggle in part-time roles -- pinch-hitting, spot-starting -- because they've grown used to frequent, everyday at-bats in the Minors.
Over the last two years, Luplow has hit .300/.378/.479 with 15 home runs in 539 plate appearances for Triple-A Indianapolis. By comparison, he carried a .202/.273/.395 line into his start at PNC Park on Saturday.
"Jordan's done a lot of things behind the scenes," Hurdle said. "There haven't been a lot of at-bats, but there have been some opportunities. Another guy trying to find his way at the Major League level in the role that's been provided for him at the time."
Luplow is still learning how to handle that role, and his routine as a bench player has evolved. When he first arrived in the Majors, he said, he felt like he needed to take "a million swings" before getting one at-bat.
"But it's just that one at-bat. You take two, three swings an at-bat. There's no reason to take 50, 60 in the cage," he said. "Getting your mind right is more what I've learned to do, knowing the pitcher and situation and score of the ballgame can really help dictate what will happen."
Around the horn
• Right-hander Chris Archer only pitched out of the stretch for the second straight start on Friday. Archer said he will re-evaluate his delivery in the offseason, but he is pleased with his results since ditching the windup.
"Pitching from the windup's not even a thought," he said. "I don't know what I'm going to do heading into next year -- I'll probably work on the windup -- but right now, the way I'm commanding the ball in and out of the zone, I'm happy with where I'm at."
• Jose Osuna on Saturday made his first Major League start at third base. Pablo Reyes made his second career start and his first in right field.
• Double-A Altoona erased a five-run deficit to beat Akron, 8-5, in Game 3 of its Eastern League playoff series on Friday night. Shortstop prospect Cole Tucker hit a grand slam to tie it, and Jin-De Jhang went 3-for-3 with a walk. Altoona entered Saturday's Game 4 trailing, two games to one, in the five-game series.
• Closer Felipe Vazquez is one of eight pitchers -- and the only lefty -- to record 31 saves or more in a season for the Pirates.