PITTSBURGH -- Gerrit Cole opened the doors of the Pirates' clubhouse to a larger-than-usual media contingent and facetiously asked, "Is Polanco here or something?"
Yes, the lengthy wait for 22-year-old Gregory Polanco's debut came to an end Tuesday when the outfielder went 1-for-5 with a single in his second MLB at-bat. Out went speculation and in came the frenzy of his debut, which was impossible to ignore in Pittsburgh, much less the Bucs' clubhouse.
Polanco arrived at PNC Park for the first time in his life earlier Tuesday morning after being told of his promotion Monday night. Polanco will try to keep his emotions in check when he takes the field for the first time, but just like any player making his debut, Josh Harrison said he noticed an in-awe thrill of the big leagues in Polanco.
"He did what most people do," said Harrison, whose locker neighbors Polanco's. "I walked in, he was sitting face-forward in his locker. We come up behind him, tap him, he turns around and smiles. We give him a handshake and a hug. You can tell he's excited to be here, but he's ready to play."
Asked of what advice his new teammates gave him, Polanco said: "Don't try to do anything different, just try to do the same thing you do. I know you're going to be excited, it's your first day. Try to stay in stay in control."
In control is exactly what the right fielder was this entire season for Triple-A Indianapolis, posting a .347 average, seven homers, 49 RBIs and a .945 OPS in 62 games. Pirates players were well aware of what Polanco was doing and knew his callup was imminent.
And now that the time is here, Andrew McCutchen -- a first-round pick who had a well-publicized debut in 2009 -- was having flashbacks of his first Major League game.
"My first year when I was up, it hit me sometime during the game that I was actually in the big leagues," McCutchen said. "I would be in the outfield, getting ready for a pitch and I would just be like 'I'm living my dream right now. This is crazy.' I still have instances. Polanco being here, you fall back to that."
Manager Clint Hurdle said he knows "this clubhouse will embrace, and if need be, protect" Polanco. Though there were cameras following him from a press conference through batting practice, his teammates, who he had played with before in Spring Training, gave him at least some sense of normalcy, as Polanco shared a few laughs with Harrison and fellow outfielders Starling Marte and McCutchen.
"I know he's probably getting a little frustrated with media and all the buzz, 'When's he coming up?' and this and that," Harrison said. "Now that it's finally here, he'll be fine."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.