PIT@SD: Walker hits a two-run homer for early lead

SAN DIEGO -- Neil Walker has battered Ian Kennedy, the San Diego right-hander who started against the Bucs in Wednesday's late afternoon series finale between the teams.

No matter. Time had come for the second baseman to get his first blow of the season, so Walker's .444 average, three homers and nine RBIs against Kennedy weren't part of the Pirates lineup.

After starting the first 58 games, Walker sat "because he's tired," manager Clint Hurdle said.

Giving Walker a day off was a painless decision, with versatile and hot-hitting Josh Harrison available to start in his place at second base. Jose Tabata, in turn, replaced Harrison in left field.

With the Pirates having an off-day Thursday, Walker will have two days to regroup before Friday's opener of a homestand and weekend series against Milwaukee at PNC Park.

"We're also mindful that he played the last two seasons hurt," added Hurdle, citing lower-back stiffness and then a strained right-oblique -- both injuries occurring past the midway point of those seasons.

"He's not made of Teflon. He's been on the field a lot. He's been hit [by pitches, 10 times], he plays second and gets knocked down and taken out on slides ... that's a lot of activity, all over the place."

Walker's season-opening consecutive games started streak was the longest by a Pirates player since Jason Bay answered the first 79 bells of 2007.

Walker leads National League second basemen with 11 homers, and his 34 RBIs are tops in the Majors at the position.

Pirates don't plan to call up Polanco this week

MLB Now on Gregory Polanco and Jeff Samardzija

SAN DIEGO -- Contrary to widespread reports Wednesday, when the Pirates and Brewers meet Friday night in Pittsburgh, they will not be be doing so with top prospect Gregory Polanco in right field.

Polanco, the Bucs' prospect jewel, may already have one foot in PNC Park's right field. But his other foot will not land Friday, as various Internet outlets were reporting Wednesday.

A high-ranking Pirates official told MLB.com as those reports spread, "Club officials have not made a decision on when to call up Polanco." Another club official stressed, "Polanco will not be in Pittsburgh on Friday."

Polanco remained in the lineup of the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians for their game Wednesday night in Syracuse.

However, it must be acknowledged that the first reports of Polanco's imminent promotion came from PiratesProspect.com, a site tightly looped into the organization's farm system that usually has first-hand knowledge of planned transactions.

The latest rumors of Polanco's arrival have added credibility because he is believed to have comfortably passed the date that would have exposed him to an added year of salary arbitration as a Super Two player.

Were Polanco to join the Pirates on Friday, he would end the season with 115 days of service time. The projected cutoff at the end of this year is two years and 128 days. That cutoff has never been lower than two years and 122 days, which occurred after the 2013 and 2010 seasons.

Polanco, MLB.com's 12th-ranked prospect, has put up gaudy numbers at Triple-A Indianapolis this season. He has hit .351 with six homers, 47 RBIs, a .956 OPS and 14 stolen bases. He's had Pirates fans clamoring for his promotion all season, especially after posting a .400 batting average in April, and he'll likely hit first in the Bucs' order, a spot where he's been used recently in the Minors.

First playing professional baseball for the Pirates in the Dominican summer league at the age of 17, Polanco has a .287/.358/.436 slash line in six years in the Minors. His path to the Majors was fast-tracked in 2013 as Polanco, 22, started the year with Class A Advanced Bradenton and ended it in Indianapolis with a 68-game stint with Double-A Altoona sandwiched between.

Polanco, who stands at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, will eventually play right field in Pittsburgh, joining an outfield with Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte, which has the potential to be one of the better defensive outfields in the Majors.

McCutchen marks five years in the Majors

PIT@SD: Andrew McCutchen's sister on big bro memories

SAN DIEGO -- On the fifth anniversary of his first Major League game, Andrew McCutchen wondered, "Where has all the time gone?"

"It's definitely flying by, especially the way things are going now," McCutchen said Wednesday, five years after he had made his debut, in PNC Park. "The season's a whirlwind. Life is a whirlwind."

In baseball, life also tends to be cyclical. So McCutchen observed his anniversary while anticipation is growing for another young man expected to trace his footsteps.

Gregory Polanco could soon make the scene and, as McCutchen did on that June 4, 2009, midweek afternoon, enter as the Bucs' leadoff hitter.

McCutchen was 22 years and 237 days old when he broke in with the Pirates. Polanco on Wednesday turned 22-263.

"It's nothing we can control," McCutchen said of Polanco's ETA, looking around the team's Petco Park clubhouse. "All we can control is what we have here."

In that first of 792-and-counting, McCutchen went 2-for-4 and scored three runs in an 11-6 victory over the Mets.

As we now know, it was the catapult to a remarkable career, still in its early stages but already quite distinctive. Since that day, McCutchen leads the National League in both runs scored (487) and hits (877), while ranking in the top three in practically every other offensive category.

First number, last word

52: Strikeouts by Pirates pitchers in their last five games, through Tuesday; the Pittsburgh staff entered that stretch next-to-last among NL teams in strikeouts.

"What you want to do in life, what you want to accomplish -- it has to start with you, and with what you think. Everything you do starts with a thought."

-- McCutchen, on the fifth anniversary of his big league debut, on the biggest lesson of the first five years.

Worth noting

• Even with Harrison moving into the infield to start in place of second baseman Walker on Wednesday, Starling Marte remained out of the lineup. Instead, Tabata got the nod in left field.

"He's not being banished to the bench for an X-number of days," manager Clint Hurdle said of Marte, in the midst of a 1-for-23 slump that has his average at a season-low .237.

"For right now, we're just keeping him unplugged, giving him an opportunity to work in a different light, and we'll see where it goes."

• Harrison started at his fourth different position during his 17-game lineup incumbency, following turns in left and right field and at third. He carried a .309 average through the first 16 of those games, into Wednesday's action.

Jared Hughes is one of four Major League relievers to be perfect in stranding inherited runners, a minimum of 14. The others are Washington's Jerry Blevins (14 inherited runners), St. Louis' Randy Choate (14) and Tampa Bay's Jake McGee (15).