PITTSBURGH (AP) – Gregory Polanco seemed to be the only person who didn’t know how much Pittsburgh Pirates’ fans have been anticipating his major league debut.
“I’m very surprised,” the 22-year-old outfielder said at an introductory news conference on Tuesday. He didn’t expect that, either.
Polanco was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis late Monday night when second baseman Neil Walker was placed on the 15-day disabled list after undergoing an appendectomy.
He was in the lineup, playing right field and batting second, for the game against the Chicago Cubs.
Polanco had been one of the top hitters in the minor leagues this season. He was leading the International League with a .347) average and 49 RBIs, and he had seven homers and 15 steals in 62 games.
“When you have a player like this come to the major leagues, it’s like graduation day,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “It’s a day for the organization to celebrate, especially those on the scouting end and in the player development department. We’re excited to have him here.”
There had been external pressure from the media and fans on the Pirates to call Polanco up since mid-April as right fielders Travis Snider and Jose Tabata both struggled before being eventually replaced by utility player Josh Harrison
Harrison is expected to be the regular second baseman while Walker recovers.
The Pirates insisted they were keeping Polanco in the minors because he needed more developmental time, though keeping him down until this point in the season likely ensures that he will not accrue enough series time this year to gain an extra year of salary arbitration eligibility.
Polanco wasn’t concerned with service time issues Monday, though. He was just happy to put a major league uniform on for the first time.
“It’s very exciting,” he said. “My dream has come true. I’m in the big leagues.”