Sept. 14: The Pirates announced that Polanco’s surgery also repaired a torn labrum — an injury that severely clouds his outlook for the beginning of the 2019 season. Pittsburgh’s press release notes that typical recovery would be in the range of seven to nine months. Even the short end of that time frame would put Polanco on track for a return in mid April, making it likely that he’ll open next season on the disabled list. If he’s closer to nine months, though, Polanco could be out until early summer of next season.
With Starling Marte, Corey Dickerson, Jordan Luplow, Adam Frazier and Jose Osuna all on hand, the Bucs do have some depth in the outfield, though the subtraction of Austin Meadows in July’s Chris Archer swap removed one high-upside candidate from the mix.
Sept. 12: The Pirates announced today that outfielder Gregory Polanco is undergoing left shoulder surgery. He suffered a dislocation upon sliding into second base this past Friday, and a second opinion from Dr. David Altchek at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York confirmed that diagnosis while also recommending surgery to stabilize the shoulder. It was already known that Polanco would be out for the remainder of the season due to a bone bruise in his left knee that will require at least six weeks of rehab, but the news on his shoulder is nonetheless an unwelcome development for the 26-year-old.
Meanwhile, the Bucs delivered some ominous news surrounding the health of right-hander Chad Kuhl, as well. Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets that Kuhl’s scheduled bullpen session was preempted yesterday when he felt renewed forearm/elbow tightness while throwing from flat ground. He’s already been out since late June and is now seeking another opinion.
For Polanco, there’s no indication that today’s surgery will impact his readiness for the 2019 season. Pittsburgh’s announcement indicates that further details on the procedure and an estimated recovery time will provided “at the appropriate time.” Depending on the severity of the damage in his shoulder and the findings of the surgeons during the procedure, there’s a fairly broad range of timetables that could ultimately be projected.
The 2018 season was an uneven one for Polanco, who opened the season with roughly league-average output through the first two months of play before erupting with a .303/.382/.626 slash with 11 homers, nine doubles and four triples through 179 plate appearances in June and July. His production disappeared entirely in August (.666 OPS), though he looked to be back on track in the week leading up to his season-ending injury.
Back in 2016, Polanco signed a five-year, $35MM contract extension that spans the 2017-21 seasons and also includes a pair of club options. He’s owed at least $27.5MM over the next three seasons under that deal — a figure that includes a $3MM buyout on a $12.5MM option for the 2022 season.
As for Kuhl, hasn’t pitched since June 26 due to discomfort in that right forearm/elbow, and today’s setback is hardly an encouraging one for his immediate outlook. The Bucs will hope, of course, that surgery isn’t ultimately recommended, though forearm tightness has been known to be a precursor to ligament damage in the elbow.
Kuhl, who turned 26 years of age yesterday, turned in 85 innings of 4.55 ERA ball with a career-high 8.6 K/9 against 3.5 BB/9 through 16 starts for the Pirates earlier this year. That bottom-line output is roughly in line with his career marks; since debuting for the Pirates in 2016, Kuhl has pitched to a 4.37 ERA through 313 Major League innings (61 starts).