Pirates send top prospect Gregory Polanco to the minors

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Gregory Polanco was always a long shot to make the Pirates out of spring training and today the team officially ruled him out, optioning the 22-year-old top prospect to the minors among the latest batch of roster cuts.

Polanco was impressive in camp, but has just 70 games of experience above Single-A and wasn’t especially productive at Double-A last season. He’s expected to begin this year at Triple-A, where he’ll play right field and try to convince the Pirates he’s ready for a midseason call-up.

In the meantime the Pirates will likely go with a Jose Tabata-Travis Snider timeshare in right field, alongside Starling Marte in left field and Andrew McCutchen in center field. Tabata is actually only three years older than Polanco and has shown that he can be a solid all-around player, but whenever Polanco is deemed ready there won’t be much blocking his path to Pittsburgh.

Japanese Baseball to begin June 19

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Japanese League commissioner Atsushi Saito announced that Japan’s professional baseball season will open on June 19. Teams can being practice games on June 2. There will be no fans. Indeed, the league has not yet even begun to seriously discuss a plan for fans to begin attending games, though that may happen eventually.

The season will begin three months after its originally scheduled opening day of March 20. It will be 120 games long. Teams in each six-team league — the Central League and Pacific League — will play 24 games against each league opponent. There will be no interleague play and no all-star game.

The announcement came in the wake of a national state of emergency being lifted for both Tokyo and the island of Hokkaido. The rest of the country emerged from the state of emergency earlier this month. This will allow the Japanese leagues to follow leagues in South Korea and Taiwan which have been playing for several weeks.

In the United States, Major League Baseball is hoping to resume spring training in mid June before launching a shortened regular season in early July. That plan is contingent on the league and the players’ union coming to an agreement on both financial arrangements and safety protocols for a 2020 season. Negotiations on both are ongoing. Major League Baseball will, reportedly, make a formal proposal about player compensation tomorrow.