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Foot X-rays negative, Polanco feels much better

MLB.com

MIAMI -- Gregory Polanco's sore foot turned out to be a short-term problem for the Pirates.

After he was scratched from Wednesday's lineup with what the club described as "left foot discomfort," Polanco reported a marked improvement when he arrived at Marlins Park on Thursday. He entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning, when he was intentionally walked by Marlins reliever Dustin McGowan.

Full Game Coverage

MIAMI -- Gregory Polanco's sore foot turned out to be a short-term problem for the Pirates.

After he was scratched from Wednesday's lineup with what the club described as "left foot discomfort," Polanco reported a marked improvement when he arrived at Marlins Park on Thursday. He entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning, when he was intentionally walked by Marlins reliever Dustin McGowan.

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"I feel a lot better than yesterday," Polanco said before the game. "I'll be ready to play."

An X-ray performed on Polanco's foot came back negative, he said. Polanco did not start for the Pirates in their series finale against Marlins left-hander Wei-Yin Chen, but the left-handed-hitting outfielder said he would "for sure" be available off the bench if needed.

Sure enough, Polanco came to the plate in a big spot after Matt Joyce's two-run double pulled the Pirates within one run. With first base open, Miami elected to give the hot-hitting Polanco a free pass.

Polanco fouled a ball off his foot during the ninth inning of Pittsburgh's 3-1 loss to Miami on Tuesday night but finished the game. He said he felt fine as he left the ballpark, but began to feel sore as the night went on.

"Then when I woke up, I was like, 'Wow.' It was swelling," Polanco said. "I was like, 'Oh my God.' I woke up limping. They said take a break."

The new left?
Less than 400 of Joyce's 2,897 career plate appearances entering Thursday night were against left-handed pitchers. He was often used as a platoon outfielder by the Rays and Angels, limiting his exposure to same-handed throwers.

But the swing improvements Joyce made this offseason may have made him a more formidable matchup against southpaws. Joyce is 4-for-12 with a double, three walks and only two strikeouts against lefties this season.

It's a small sample size, especially compared to Joyce's career .185 average and .566 OPS against lefties in 397 trips to the plate. But in this case, perhaps Joyce's recent at-bats are more indicative of his current ability than his career numbers.

"His swing's in a better place against everybody right now than maybe it was last year or the year before," manager Clint Hurdle said.

A night after delivering a game-tying single against Marlins lefty Mike Dunn, Joyce started Thursday in Polanco's place against the lefty-throwing Chen and delivered another big hit in the seventh off the right-handed McGowan.

Video: PIT@MIA: Joyce drives in two with line-drive double

Leading off
The Pirates have used two primary leadoff men this season: John Jaso against right-handers and Jordy Mercer against lefties. In this four-game series, three of them against left-handers, Josh Harrison has started atop the order twice.

"He's hitting leadoff based on merit, based on the volume of work of the at-bats against left-handed pitchers," Hurdle said.

After a hot start to the season, Mercer is hitting .207/.281/.253 since May 3. Hurdle called it a "settling month" for the shortstop and expects him to find his way back to the top of the order later this season.

A number of Pirates are hitting below their career average against lefties this season, but not Harrison. He entered Thursday's game batting .378/.425/.486 against southpaws.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Gregory Polanco