Polanco had been sidelined since July 22 due to a strained left hamstring. The Pirates went 2-7 in his absence, falling from a game above .500 -- and two games out of the National League Central lead -- to four games under and 6 1/2 games behind the division-leading Cubs.
They slipped to five games under .500 in his first game back Wednesday, although remained 6 1/2 games behind the Cubs, after the Pirates fell to the Reds, 5-2. Polanco went 0-for-3, but he made his presence felt with a nice running catch on Billy Hamilton's fly ball to end the third inning.
The timing of Polanco's injury was unfortunate for Pittsburgh, as he was finally heating up at the plate. Polanco slashed .387/.406/.629 with three home runs in 17 games last month before straining his hamstring while running to first base at Coors Field on July 21.
To make room for Polanco on the active roster, the Pirates optioned outfielder Jordan Luplow to Triple-A Indianapolis. Called up Friday despite his limited Triple-A experience, Luplow went 0-for-9 with a walk and three strikeouts in four games, including two starts in right field.
Polanco has dealt with a number of injuries this season: a sore left shoulder that limited him to DH duty on Opening Day, a strained left hamstring in mid-May, a sprained right ankle in late May, an occasionally sore right knee and, finally, a recurrence of his hamstring strain.
After his latest injury, the Pirates said they will evaluate Polanco's training program in hopes of avoiding further time on the disabled list.
"What we've done hasn't worked, unfortunately. Gregory wants to play," head athletic trainer Todd Tomczyk said. "This guy wants to be out there, probably more than anybody. When he's out there, we're a pretty good team."
Bullpen move The Pirates placed left-hander Wade LeBlanc on the bereavement list Wednesday due to an illness in his family and recalled right-hander Dovydas Neverauskas from Triple-A Indianapolis.
LeBlanc pitched three scoreless innings in the Pirates' 9-1 loss to the Reds on Tuesday night at PNC Park. He must miss a minimum of three games, but no more than seven, according to the rules of the bereavement list.
Neverauskas, 24, is the Pirates' No. 26-ranked prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com. This will be his third stint in the Majors this season. He made his debut on April 24, becoming the first born-and-raised Lithuanian to play in the big leagues, and pitched twice for the Pirates in June.
Since returning to Triple-A, Neverauskas has posted a 2.00 ERA and held opponents to a .200 average and .512 OPS in 18 innings over 15 appearances. Overall, Neverauskas owns a 2.96 ERA with 11 saves in 45 2/3 innings over 36 appearances for Indianapolis.
Trainer's room • Josh Harrison (lower left leg discomfort) was out of the lineup for the second straight game Wednesday, although he grounded out in a seventh-inning pinch-hit appearance. Harrison, who exited Sunday's game early after an awkward step at first base, participated in pregame infield drills and batting practice, Tomczyk said. Harrison's knee was determined to be structurally "sound" after seeing medical director Dr. Patrick DeMeo, according to Tomczyk.
• Top prospect Austin Meadows (strained hamstring) has played in two rehabilitation games for the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Pirates, most recently starting in right field on Tuesday. He is expected to advance another step toward Triple-A soon.