Pirate outfield shaping up

PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Pirates finally got some good medical news this week.

Utility player Josh Harrison won’t need to go on the disabled list after spraining his left ankle while running the bases in Wednesday night’s game.

“He went through different testing and different drills,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He’s not a DL candidate, and that’s the best news to come from it.”

With Harrison sitting out Thursday’s homestand finale against the Chicago Cubs, Gregory Polanco batted leadoff for the first time in the major leagues.

The Pirates moved Polanco to the leadoff spot a few weeks ago at Class AAA Indianapolis with the idea he might fill that role in Pittsburgh.

“He did fine,” Hurdle said. “He embraced it. You tell everybody when they’re moved there not to change their game, but he didn’t have to change his game.

“He’s basically showed patience, been aggressive in the strike zone, looking for a pitch, using the whole field. He bunted a few more times down there. I’m very confident moving him up there, and I don’t think he’ll change anything.”

Hurdle also moved Starling Marte up to the No. 2 spot on Thursday, so his outfielders occupied the first three spots in the order.

“(Marte) has been swinging it better, and if you look at the hard numbers, he’s been one of our guys who’s been able to do some things against (Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija),” Hurdle said.

Marte entered the game 5-for-18 (.278) against Samardzija.

“It looks really good, too,” Hurdle said. “Polanco, Marte and McCutchen. That’s not why we’re doing it, but it does look really good.”

Top pick signs: High school shortstop Cole Tucker was in town to sign his contract, and will now report to the rookie league team in Bradenton.

Reports have the signing bonus at $1.8 million, which is slightly below what the slot system had as compensation for the 24th player selected in last week’s draft.

Tucker doesn’t turn 18 until next month, so he’s a long-term project. But the Pirates feel like they were able to acquire a player who is still developing.

“If he were being drafted next year, he would be in the top five or 10 picks or the country,” general manager Neal Huntington said.

Cole, from Mountain Pointe High School in Arizona, is 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds.

“This is something that has always been a dream of mine,” Tucker said. “To get a chance to be a pro ball player is something that’s very special to me and my family. I’ve always wanted to do this and to see it come to fruition is really cool for me.”

Tucker bypassed a scholarship from Arizona to turn pro. The Pirates have signed 16 players from this year’s draft.

To be announced: Hurdle said he wasn’t ready to announce who will start in place of injured Francisco Liriano Sunday in Miami.

It won’t be Casey Sadler, who was sent back to Indianapolis Thursday.

The Pirates replaced him with infielder Michael Martinez. Martinez has a career .187 average over parts of three seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies.

His stay is probably for the short term as the Pirates will add a pitcher – perhaps Vance Worley – during the weekend.

Feeling better: Neal Walker was in the clubhouse Thursday and reported he’s feeling better after an emergency appendectomy on Monday.

“I feel good today,” he said. “I slept well, the chemicals and drugs are out of my system, so I feel pretty good.”

Walker had a pain in his abdomen around 2 o’clock in the afternoon, and was taken to see a doctor.

“It just felt like a really bad cramp that wouldn’t go away,” Walker said. “About 6 o’clock I was asking them to hurry up because I needed to get back to play. They said, you’re not going anywhere, you have to upstairs and get worked on. “Everything happened kind of quickly. I woke up that day and certainly didn’t expect to finish the day on a hospital bed.”

Walker’s surgery was minimally invasive and he’s hopeful he can return when his 15-day DL assignment ends.