Lane: Polanco move wasn’t surprising

BRADENTON, Fla. – Good spring. Bad spring. Sometimes it doesn’t matter because decisions already have been made in some cases.

Gregory Polanco was having a good spring. Not surprising. He’s considered the Pirates’ top outfield prospect and is rated as the 10th best prospect in the majors by Baseball America.

In 10 Grapefruit League games this spring, Polanco boasted a .804 OPS with six hits (two doubles and a homer) in 22 at-bats for a .273 batting average. Considering the Pirates’ options in right field (Jose Tabata and Travis Snider), Polanco looked ready to fill the bill.

However, Polanco was optioned to Class AAA Indianapolis on Friday, and that shouldn’t have been surprising, either.

General manager Neal Huntington made it plain from the get-go that Polanco would start the season in Indy where he’ll play every day. There is no doubt Polanco is the Bucs’ right fielder of the future, but the club can save a year on his options by not calling him up until June or later so it’s an economic move.

Polanco batted .285 with 12 homers and 38 stolen bases in 127 games with Altoona and Bradenton in 2013 and is rated a can’t-miss prospect by most experts. Look for him in Pittsburgh in mid-to-late June unless Tabata or Snider is tearing the cover off the ball.

The Pirates continue to attract big crowds at McKechnie Field this spring 8,245 for the Red Sox last Sunday, 6,282 for the Orioles on Monday and 7,930 for the Phils on Friday.

On the autograph trail, Jean and Joan landed Domonic Brown and Darin Ruf of the Phils, along with manager Ryne Sandberg, the Hall of Fame second baseman with the Cubs; Nolan Reimhold of the Orioles, Brock Holt and David Ross of the Red Sox and Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata of the Pirates.

Joe Shuta of WFBG’s Leading Off is here doing some interviews for his Wednesday evening radio show.

Other Altoona-area folks seen at the ballpark this week included Don Claar, Don and Ginny Harrington, Jim and Peggy Hancuff, Janet Hines and the Young family Bill, Becky, Wes, Will and Wyatt.

Off the field, we continue to enjoy the sun at Holmes Beach on Anna Maria Island. We also spent a morning at the Red Barn, the biggest flea market I’ve ever seen, and we filled a rainy afternoon by going to the movies in Sarasota.

We also found time to get to our favorite Italian restaurants Carrabba’s Grille in Bradenton and Primo’s Ristorante in Sarasota. Other stops this week were Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, South Philly Cheese steak, Caf on the Beach, and Cracker Barrel.

Until next week ..

Lane is a retired sports editor of the Mirror. He writes from Florida in February and March.