Polanco focusing on improved training, diet

Outfielder's 2017 season has been derailed by injuries

Polanco focusing on improved training, diet

PITTSBURGH -- Gregory Polanco's pregame routine is a little different these days. The Pirates outfielder is doing more stretching, more hamstring-specific work, more leg exercises. He's getting more treatment in the trainer's room, more one-on-one time with strength coach Ricky White stretching on the field. And he's drinking a lot more water.

"The last two months," Polanco said, "like never before."

Polanco does it all with a goal in mind, obviously: to stay healthy, something he could not do often enough this season. The 26-year-old right fielder made three separate trips to the disabled list due to a strained left hamstring and also dealt with a sore shoulder on Opening Day, right groin discomfort in mid-April, a sprained ankle in late May and an occasionally sore knee.

The recurring hamstring injuries were the most concerning, prompting Polanco to adjust his work off the field. Since his return on Sept. 8, the Pirates have measured his playing time, too. He has not started three consecutive games since his last trip to the disabled list.

Polanco feels better now, he said, as quick and strong as he needs to be. But he doesn't want to be a healthy, part-time player.

"For next season, that's my goal -- to stay healthy and play every day," Polanco said Tuesday. "I'm going to work harder than ever before to stay healthy. That's the key. Stay healthy. If I'm not healthy, and I can't work, I'm not going anywhere. That's the biggest thing for me."

For three weeks in July, Polanco was healthy and productive. He batted .387 with a 1.035 OPS from July 1-21, sparking the lineup alongside Andrew McCutchen, and it's no coincidence the Pirates went 12-5 when he played during that stretch. Then came another hamstring injury and another trip to the disabled list.

Polanco exits game with injury

"That has been challenging, there's no doubt about that," manager Clint Hurdle said. "That has impeded the consistent part of his game that we all were wanting to see more of."

That much is reflected in Polanco's overall numbers. After hitting 22 home runs in somewhat of a breakout season last year -- he had a great first half followed by a two-month slump -- Polanco entered Tuesday night batting .253/.308/.391 with 10 homers and 33 RBIs. In 103 games, he has totaled 0.1 Wins Above Replacement.

"We certainly believe that Gregory is going to be a very good Major League player. He needs to get his legs back underneath him," general manager Neal Huntington said. "We saw huge flashes of the promise in Spring Training and again in the World Baseball Classic. Things didn't go the way we anticipated."

Polanco wants to finally put it all together next year. He is striving for consistency, which he and the Pirates believe will come with good health.

To that end, Polanco said he will focus his offseason training on staying strong but lean. He'll continue to incorporate agility work into his routine. He also wants to eat better at home in the Dominican Republic, following a meal and nutrition plan provided by the Pirates' training staff.

And yes, he'll keep drinking more water than ever before. Whatever helps him stay on the field.

"Training, training, training," Polanco said. "I don't want to do this again. I don't want to feel like that again."

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