Gregory Polanco meets his predecessor in right field Dave Parker
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle likes to communicate with his players, but he couldn’t compete with one visitor who popped his head into the clubhouse.
Dave Parker, seven-time All-Star, two-time Pirates batting champ and 1978 NL MVP, spent some time Saturday with one of his successors as the Pirates’ right fielder, Gregory Polanco.
“How more meaningful can that be?” Hurdle said. “You can spend all day with me, but you spend 15 minutes with Dave Parker, that’s got a chance of dripping some positivity on you.
“Parker likes him. Parker talks to him. Parker encourages him.”
Earlier this season, Hurdle provided his own brand of encouragement, telling Polanco to ignore the noise that erupted when his batting average plunged to .200 as late as June 16 and he went 25 games without hitting a home run.
“I’ve never stopped seeing (Polanco’s potential),” Hurdle said. “Sometimes, you need to be the first believer. It’s written right up here,” he said, pointing to a sign on a shelf in his office that reads, `Be a warrior, not a worrier.′ “When players know you’re the first believer, I do think there’s something to that.
“I had people in my career I didn’t think they were (in my corner) and they tell me they were, it makes a difference. Sometimes, you can feel pretty lonely when you’re lost and not getting things done.”
Hurdle said he has a lot of competition in trying to get his players’ attention, and he wasn’t talking about Parker.
“There is so much more opportunity for negativity in today’s game than there was when I played,” he said. “The media posts, the blogs, the shares, the likes, the dislikes, all that junk that’s out there.
“Unfortunately, these guys tap into it and I try to get them to say, `You don’t need to go there. Who cares what other people think?′ What’s most important is what you think and I’ve tried to maintain my constant reminders to (Polanco).′ ”
Polanco has responded over the past 27 games (before Sunday) by hitting safety in 22 of them while compiling a .314 batting average, nine home runs and 24 RBIs. Not surprisingly, the Pirates won 18 times in that span, including 15 of 18.
He leads all National League outfielders with 45 extra-base hits and is seventh in slugging percentage (.507). Overall, he led the Pirates with 18 homers and 58 RBI before Sunday’s game when he singled in his first three at-bats and stole second base twice.
“He stayed pretty steadfast in what he believes even through some tough times,” Hurdle said.
Hurdle walks the outfield at PNC Park before every home game, chatting with his players during batting practice, especially the relief pitchers gto gauge their readiness for that day’s action.
“Ray (pitching coach Searage) usually checks up with them. I like to touch them personally, as well,” he said.
It was in the outfield that Hurdle became satisfied that Edgar Santana, who threw 20 pitches in two innings Friday, could pitch another inning Saturday to help the Pirates beat the New York Mets.
“He said `I don’t need a day off. I’m ready to go.′
“I actually believe in adrenaline. With a one-run lead in the seventh inning, he expected to get the ball. He would have said something if he wasn’t ready or he felt taxed.”
General manager Neal Huntington said Jung Ho Kang, whose comeback efforts have been delayed by a wrist injury, is “about ready” to return to game activity.
But the Pirates aren’t counting on his return this season.
“He absolutely could be a great addition for us when he’s healthy,” Huntington said. “It’s not something we’re counting on, but it could be a very positive add.”
Huntington indicated Kang could be sent on a rehab assignment to Single-A or Double-A minor league teams in Bradenton or Altoona.
“We’d like to give him a pseudo-rehabilitation,” he said. “At least, find out where the wrist is. And is he going to be able to come back from this?”