OF needs to find its bats

By John Mehno

For the Mirror

PITTSBURGH — When the Pirates had an 11-game winning streak, their three outfielders were a big part of it. Corey Dickerson, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco were all hot at the same time and carried the offense.

Now the three have been headed in the opposite direction, and the Pirates’ record reflects that collective slump.

Heading into Friday night’s rain-delayed game against the Chicago Cubs, the Pirates had gone 8-12 since the winning streak and had lost four in a row and five of six.

The three outfielders had batted a combined .132 (17-for-129) over 12 games.

“I still believe all three of them have shown signs of getting closer,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “That’s the rhythm and rhyme of the game. Truly for us to be the best team we want to be in the future, it’s for Marte and Polanco to be involved, to be able to play to the best of their ability — Dickerson as well. So, I think you hang with them when it’s challenging.”

Dickerson, Marte and Polanco occupied the top three spots in Friday’s lineup against lefthander Cole Hamels.

Hurdle said there isn’t a single solution that will work for all three of his slumping outfielders.

“There’s a level of progression,” Hurdle said. “When guys are playing at a high level, there’s a point where they settle down to the average level. Dickerson, Marte and Polanco were all hot at the same time. All of them have fallen out of that for different reasons.

“Dickerson had an injury. I think sometimes when guys come back from an injury, they want to go back to that point they were when they went out. Sometimes that takes a while.

“Marte, we’ve seen at times when he doesn’t go well the chase factor comes into play. Polanco? Balls in zone, (there was) hard contact. Now balls in zone are fouled off or (there’s) swing and miss at some others.”

The answer, Hurdle believes, is to keep playing the three who were so productive just two weeks ago.

Still waiting

Kevin Newman made his major league debut Thursday, playing the last inning of the Pirates’ 1-0 loss to the Cubs on defense.

Newman may get a start at shortstop while Jordy Mercer is on the disabled list with a left calf strain, but Hurdle is more inclined to stick with veteran Adeiny Hechavarria.

“I don’t want us to lose sight of why we brought in Hechavarria,” Hurdle said.

Hurdle noted that Newman’s promotion came because of Mercer’s injury.

“(Newman) is a good young prospect,” Hurdle said. “In my mind, you don’t force playing time for him right now. You wait for playing time to open up, and I believe it will come his way.”

Deal complete

The Pirates completed the deal they made for reliever Keone Kela just before the July 31 trading deadline.

They sent 19-year-old third baseman Sherten Apostel to the Texas Rangers as the player to be named.

Apostel, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound native of Curacao, was with the Pirates’ Rookie League team in Bristol. He batted .259 with three home runs and 26 RBIs over 41 games.

Lefthanded pitcher Taylor Hearn was also traded to Texas as part of the deal.

Pitching change

The Pirates won’t face four Cubs lefthanders after all.

Righthander Tyler Chatwood will start tonight’s game, taking the place of Mike Montgomery, who went on the disabled list Friday.

Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com

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