F. Dale Lolley's Sports Column

Bucs shouldn’t rush Polanco

No need to rush Polanco

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There is a lot of pressure being mounted on the Pirates to bring up prospect Gregory Polanco to play right field.


As of Thursday’s games, Polanco was batting .420 with four homers, 22 RBI, 18 runs and four stolen bases for the Pirates’ Class AAA affiliate.


That’s all well and good. But those 87 at-bats and the nine he got last season in Class AAA aren’t enough to measure whether he’s ready to hit Major League pitching.


Polanco had 286 at-bats in Class AA last season and batted .263 with six home runs and 41 RBI. And he hit .237 in 203 at-bats in rookie ball in 2011.


None of that means Polanco won’t be able to hit Major League pitching. But his performance in 87 at-bats in Class AAA don’t necessarily mean he’s ready at this point, either.


There’s no doubt Polanco will be a solid player at the Major League level at some point. But 87 at-bats above the Class AA level, where he didn’t exactly set the world on fire, isn’t a big enough body of work to say the time is now.


Besides, the combination of Travis Snider and Jose Tabata, who have shared most of the right field duties thus far this season, has contributed three home runs and 13 RBI.


By comparison, reigning National League MVP Andrew McCutchen has four homers and 13 RBI.


Hitting, for the most part, hasn’t been the Pirates’ issue early this season.


The bigger problem has been a starting rotation that has provided just three wins, none of which have come from Francisco Liriano or Charlie Morton.


So unless Polanco can toe the rubber, there’s no reason for the Pirates to rush him to the majors at this point.


• Football players at Northwestern Friday held an historic vote on whether to unionize.


The vote could be largely symbolic since the university is challenging the effort to unionize, but the players should be careful what they ask for.


Yes, unionizing might sound like a good idea. College athletes work long hours and are treated like slabs of meat at some schools, mostly the ones that are football factories.


It is unlikely that is the case at Northwestern, which went 5-7 last season and hasn’t finished better than third place in the Big Ten since 2000.


If the players are granted the right to unionize once the issue plays out in court, the university would also have the option of breaking that union down the road.


Don’t think that is possible?


Take a look at the NFL Players Association, which just might be the weakest of all the unions in major professional sports.


NFL owners all but broke that union with a lockout in 2011, relegating it to an organization that largely rubber stamps any decisions the league makes.


• NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said this week that he’s unsure if the league will move forward with its draft in May in the future.


In previous years, the league held its draft in April, but moved it to the second week of May this year for no apparent good reason. Maybe it didn’t want to conflict with the release of the movie Draft Day, the Kevin Costner flick that came out a few weeks ago.


Count me among the people who want the draft moved back to April.


All of the NFL teams had their first offseason training programs begin in the past two weeks. Wouldn’t it have been nice if rookies were able to take part?


They would have been able to had the NFL held its draft in April, as it had done in previous years.



F. Dale Lolley can be reached at dlolley@observer-reporter.com


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