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Polanco poised to regain power stroke

Pirates outfielder tweaks offseason training routine, homers vs. Yanks
MLB.com @adamdberry

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Gregory Polanco's offseason training routine was designed to enhance his overall athleticism, not his strength. So it might seem odd that he thinks he's in a better position to hit for power now than he was a year ago, coming off an offseason of heavy weight training.

But there was Polanco, ripping a home run over the boardwalk beyond LECOM Park's right-field fence in a 4-1 loss to the Yankees on Saturday. Polanco finished 2-for-3 in his Spring Training debut and played five innings in right field. And there he was afterward, saying he might have been too muscular to hit for power during his injury-plagued 2017 season.

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BRADENTON, Fla. -- Gregory Polanco's offseason training routine was designed to enhance his overall athleticism, not his strength. So it might seem odd that he thinks he's in a better position to hit for power now than he was a year ago, coming off an offseason of heavy weight training.

But there was Polanco, ripping a home run over the boardwalk beyond LECOM Park's right-field fence in a 4-1 loss to the Yankees on Saturday. Polanco finished 2-for-3 in his Spring Training debut and played five innings in right field. And there he was afterward, saying he might have been too muscular to hit for power during his injury-plagued 2017 season.

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"I lost some weight, so my hips and hands are faster," Polanco said. "If your hands are slow, you get jammed a lot. That's why I focused on that. That was my main focus, getting a strong core, lower body and legs so I can go quick, go fast."

Polanco hit 22 home runs with a .463 slugging percentage two years ago but felt there was untapped power in his swing. So he altered his winter workouts, packed on more muscle and, as a result, felt strong last spring. But he lost some flexibility, and his tight muscles were more susceptible to injury. He wound up hitting 11 homers and slugging just .391 in 108 games.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"He's a guy that's got a swing that will play," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Home runs are thrown more than they're hit. As he continues to mature as a hitter, I think there's situations he can hunt them. There's power in the bat. ... If he's on the field consistently, you'll see more power."

Polanco was particularly pleased with his homer against Dillon Tate in the fifth inning, as he received a green light in a 3-0 count. The Pirates rarely call for 3-0 takes during Spring Training, and Polanco was eager to take advantage of the opportunity.

"I was ready for it, so I said, 'Oh, thank you,'" Polanco said. "You've got to get the rhythm [on] Day 1. You've got to get in the habit so in the season it's not surprising. That was good."

Video: NYY@PIT: Hurdle on Polanco's home run vs. Yankees

First impression
Reliever Michael Feliz's debut with the Pirates went about as well as possible. The big right-hander struck out the side as he breezed through Miguel Andujar, Tyler Austin and Clint Frazier -- all swinging -- in the fifth inning.

"That's a good start," Feliz said, smiling. "I didn't try to do too much. Just tried to focus, throw strikes. Still working on my secondary pitch, which looked good today. But it feels good for the first game."

Acquired from the Astros in the Gerrit Cole trade, Feliz has a history of racking up strikeouts -- he's whiffed 172 over 121 innings in the Majors -- but his overall production has not yet matched his stuff. Feliz said he has worked on improving the consistency of his secondary pitches, a changeup and a slider that looked sharp on Saturday, as he prepares to take on a bigger role in the Bucs' bullpen.

"I thought he showed a live arm. His stuff played a bit," Hurdle said. "By no means do I think he's a finished product for Spring Training. I think there's more fastball there that will come as he continues to get stretched out and use his pitches. The slider can be a weapon."

Numbers game
Newly signed reliever Kevin Siegrist will wear jersey No. 41, most recently worn by Daniel Hudson. Outfielder Corey Dickerson has not yet reported to camp but changed from jersey No. 7 to No. 12, which had been taken by Michael Saunders.

Up next
The Pirates will play the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla., on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. ET. Right-hander Tyler Glasnow, who could crack the Bucs' Opening Day roster, will make the start. Also scheduled to pitch are Steven Brault, Josh Smoker, A.J. Schugel, Edgar Santana and John Stilson. Adam Frazier is slated to play center with Colin Moran at third and Josh Bell serving as the designated hitter.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Gregory Polanco