The brief Minor League timeout is a chance for the 22-year-old outfielder to rediscover his hitting ability and confidence. Manager Clint Hurdle said Polanco will rejoin the Pirates on Sept. 2 -- the first day he is eligible to return as Indianapolis' season wraps up the day before.
Prior to being benched in favor of Travis Snider on Aug. 19, Polanco had been in a 1-for-26 slump. He returned to the lineup for Sunday's series finale in Milwaukee, but he struck out all three times at the plate. It left Polanco in a 1-for-30 swoon that included 11 strikeouts.
"The timing is off on his swing, and I don't think the best way to spend the next week is to be sitting on the bench every day," Hurdle said of Polanco, who turns 23 next month. "We'll give him the opportunity to get down, get some at-bats, get out of the spotlight that's been here for a week and find his way. I believe he will and come back and help this ballclub in September in a very positive fashion."
Polanco turned his highly anticipated Major League debut into a historic one, beginning his career with an 11-game hitting streak and in the process blowing past the previous club record of seven straight to begin a career. Once that flourish ended, however, Polanco's average began a steady decline, and it stood at .241 on Monday.
In his first 27 Major League games, Polanco hit .299 with a .787 OPS and 32 hits. In 37 games since then, he has a .197 average and .557 OPS, tallying 28 hits. The Pirates were 17-10 in Polanco's initial 27 contests, and have gone 19-18 in Polanco's last 37 appearances.
The demotion was foreshadowed when manager Clint Hurdle made an unusual move in the ninth inning of Sunday's game: With a right-hander (Francisco Rodriguez) on the mound, he pinch-hit one left-handed hitter (Travis Snider) for another.
Polanco's return on Sunday had been preceded by days of thorough work meant to get his swing back to a productive place. But now, Polanco won't have down time, but rather be down a level. Hurdle noted brief demotions have happened to "many great hitters" over the years and views the next week as a chance to get "unplugged."
"We told him we expect him to go down and bundle those at-bats, keep it simple, get your foot down early, get the barrel to the ball, hit it hard where it's pitched and come back here September 2 and help us," Hurdle said. "I think he was in a good place as far as understanding what our desires are and why we were doing it."
For the next week, Polanco's work will take place in Indianapolis, under the watch of Indians batting coach Mike Pagliarulo.
Tabata returns to the 25-man roster after spending the last two months in Triple-A. Tabata, 26, hit .289 with a .327 on-base percentage and a .331 slugging percentage in 62 games with the Bucs before being sent down.