Polanco ready to fulfill his potential
BRADENTON, Fla. — Gregory Polanco thought the best way to boost his power numbers was by bulking up his body.
The Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder quickly found out last year that was not the case. He said he “didn’t feel right” at the beginning of spring training and throughout the season following a winter of heavy weight training.
“I felt like I couldn’t move,” Polanco said.
Polanco wound up hitting .251 with 11 home runs in 108 games. He also spent three stints on the disabled list because of a strained left hamstring.
The Pirates’ training staff came up with a different workout plan for Polanco to follow this past offseason and he reported to spring training leaner and feeling more flexible.
“I lost some weight, so my hips and hands are faster,” Polanco said. “If your hands are slow, you get jammed a lot. That’s why I focused on that. That was my main focus, getting a strong core, lower body and legs so I can go quick, go fast.”
Polanco’s bat has looked quicker in his limited playing time so far this spring training. He homered in his first game and entered Monday 3 for 8 with a double.
“You’ve got to get the in the rhythm right from the start and I feel like I’m in a good rhythm,” Polanco said. “Hitting a home run on the first day was a good start. I just want to carry what I’m doing this spring into the season then all the way through the season.”
The 26-year-old is a .252 hitter with 66 home runs.
“He’s a guy that’s got a swing that will play,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Home runs are thrown more than they’re hit. As he continues to mature as a hitter, I think there’s situations he can hunt them. There’s power in the bat. If he’s on the field consistently, you’ll see more power.”
Polanco vows he will be on the field more often this year.
“I feel great,” he said. “As good as I’ve ever felt. I’m excited about what I can do this season.”
The Pirates need to fill the offensive void created when they traded five-time All-Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen to San Francisco.
“A lot of people said it is time for me to take charge,” Polanco said. “I use that to get better and show what I can do for the team and me, too. I know I can do more than I’ve done so far. It motivates me to work hard and be a better a player. I know my team needs me more than ever now and it’s time I start to be the type of player I know I can be.”