Polanco sees improvement with ankle injury

Ngoepe, Hanson don't travel to NY; Taillon set to start Friday at Triple-A

Polanco sees improvement with ankle injury

PITTSBURGH -- Less than 48 hours after an ugly collision with the short wall down the right-field line, Gregory Polanco is showing signs of improvement.

The Pirates' cleanup man, who was carted off the field Monday after twisting his ankle, entered in the fifth inning of Wednesday's 14-inning, 6-5 loss against the D-backs at PNC Park and slapped a game-tying, pinch-hit single up the middle. Polanco is still not fully back, however, as the Pirates had to send in Tyler Glasnow to pinch-run at first base.

"I feel way better," said Polanco before the game. "Just a bruise."

Before Wednesday's series finale against the D-backs, the Pirates evaluated Polanco to determine if he was available to play off the bench. Even if he's not in the lineup after Thursday's off-day in New York, it appears Pittsburgh has avoided a worst-case scenario with Polanco, who initially feared he had broken his ankle and later reported a possible sprain.

The Bucs' training staff tended to Polanco's ankle throughout the day Tuesday. Only days removed from a stint on the disabled list due to a hamstring strain, Polanco hopes to avoid another trip to the DL.

"They said let's go day to day," Polanco said. "I don't want to be there anymore."

The 25-year-old has been hitting well after a rough start, and his shortened swing stayed sharp during his time on the shelf. In his previous 14 games before Wednesday, dating back to May 5, Polanco hit .354/.392/.625 with three homers.

Moves ahead
It appears the Pirates will shake up their bench before Friday's series opener against the Mets at Citi Field, as infielders Gift Ngoepe and Alen Hanson did not travel with the club to New York. Ngoepe has Minor League options, so he can be optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. Hanson, who is out of options, must be designated for assignment and placed on waivers, where another club can claim him from the Pirates.

Once a top prospect, Hanson has struggled in limited playing time this season, batting .193/.220/.263 with two steals in 37 games. While Ngoepe has delivered outstanding infield defense, as advertised, his bat cooled after a strong start. The club has not announced an official roster move.

Their most likely replacements are infielder Max Moroff, who has posted a .954 OPS while hitting 13 homers in Triple-A, and infielder Phil Gosselin, who has hit .310 with a .742 OPS in Indianapolis since being optioned by the Pirates. Neither Moroff nor Gosselin started for Indianapolis on Wednesday night.

Next stop: Indianapolis
After throwing a bullpen session Tuesday afternoon, the Pirates plotted out right-hander Jameson Taillon's next assignment. The right-hander, working his way back from surgery for testicular cancer, will start Friday for Indianapolis at Victory Field.

On Sunday, Taillon made his first appearance since his May 8 surgery, striking out six over three scoreless innings on 47 pitches for Double-A Altoona. The Pirates are not publicly setting a firm pitch or innings limit on Taillon.

"As we did in the first one, just get him back into competition," head athletic trainer Todd Tomczyk said.

Taillon on rehab, quick comeback

Halfway point
Outfielder Starling Marte's 80-game suspension following a positive test for the performance-enhancing substance Nandrolone is halfway over. Tuesday's 3-0 loss to the D-backs was the Pirates' 40th game since Marte was placed on the restricted list. The Pirates entered Wednesday with an 18-22 record without Marte.

Barring any postponed games, Marte will be eligible to return on July 18. He can begin a Minor League rehab assignment 15 days before his suspension ends. In the meantime, he has been working out and playing in extended spring camp at the Bucs' Pirate City complex in Bradenton, Fla.

Manager Clint Hurdle said he receives daily reports on Marte, and they frequently speak on the phone.

"He's showing up well. He's pouring into the drill work. He's pouring into the game work," Hurdle said. "He's working on physical activity. He's following the directives from the training staff and from the game component, when that opportunity presents itself. He seems to be making some progress."

Trainer's room
• Catcher Chris Stewart (left hamstring strain) received a platelet-rich plasma injection after being placed on the disabled list Tuesday, Tomczyk said. Stewart will be limited the next two days before he is re-evaluated Friday in New York.

"This is a mild hamstring strain," Tomczyk said. "We're hopeful it'll be limited to the minimum time [10 days] down."

• Pitchers Antonio Bastardo (left quad strain) and Josh Lindblom (left side discomfort) are rehabbing with Triple-A Indianapolis and have responded well to their work so far, Tomczyk said.

Bastardo has pitched a pair of scoreless innings during his rehab assignment. Lindblom made a scoreless two-inning appearance with three strikeouts on Saturday.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.