Mehno: Meadows a big hit so far for Pirates

PITTSBURGH — Austin Meadows has become an instantly popular Pirates player, and that makes sense.

What’s not to like? He went 5-for-11 (.455) in his first three major league games. He hit a home run, stole a base, and it wasn’t his fault that the Pirates lost three of four at home to the San Diego Padres.

Meadows is likely headed back to Class AAA Indianapolis as soon as Starling Marte recovers well enough from an oblique injury to rejoin the active roster.

Not surprisingly, there’s sentiment to keep Meadows on the major league team and make a move with someone else.

Sean Rodriguez has been suggested as a possibility, but that isn’t going to happen. His versatility plays well with a limited bench, and he has enough history to think he’ll do better than the weak offensive numbers he’s put up so far.

Gregory Polanco? Hmm, no. He’s signed for three more years at a relatively reasonable cost, and then has two club options after that. Polanco is still only 26, and he shows flashes of the talent that led the Pirates to give him that contract.

In fact, Polanco is a case study on the perils of being impatient with young players. In 2014, he was tearing things up at Triple A. Fans were clamoring to get him to Pittsburgh.

GM Neal Huntington warned that Polanco “still had some boxes to check,” a comment that earned him plenty of ridicule when Polanco started his major league career with an 11-game hitting streak.

After 11 games, Polanco was batting .365 with an .863 OPS. Boxes to check? Yeah, right.

But from that point forward, Polanco batted .204 with a .650 OPS and his season included a remedial trip to the minor leagues. Turned out there really were still some boxes to check.

Since that 11-game hitting streak, Polanco has hit .243 in more than 2,000 plate appearances.

Austin Meadows isn’t Gregory Polanco. He’s a different player. He may be ready for a long stay in the major leagues. But it’s rarely a mistake to be patient.

Flower blooms

It’s been a dream season for Marc-Andre Fleury, the former Penguins goalie who is just four wins away from a Stanley Cup championship with the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.

The Penguins have been booking tee times since their second-round loss to Washington, so that’s led to some giver’s remorse on making Fleury available in the draft pool.

The Penguins had no choice. Matt Murray was younger, cheaper and has his name on the Cup twice.

Fleury didn’t want to stay here and be a back-up. He had a great time in Pittsburgh, but he’s undoubtedly enjoying this improbable season just as much.

Fleury’s absence hurt the Penguins last season. So did the lack of depth on defense and at forward.

His absence wasn’t the only reason the Penguins are watching the playoffs on TV, and given the salary cap and Murray’s accomplishments, his departure was pretty much inevitable.

Wish him well, but it’s not realistic to wish he would have stayed here.

Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com

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