Pirates notebook: Root Sports' switch to Penguins was agreed-upon plan

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ST. LOUIS -- As the Pirates tried to extend a three-run lead in the top of the ninth inning Saturday, television viewers in the Pittsburgh market lost their feed.

A three-hour, 42-minute Pirates game created a conflict for Root Sports, whose hockey ratings are often among the best in the nation.

Root Sports switched coverage at 7:37 p.m. from the Pirates game in St. Louis to the Penguins game at Consol Energy Center. Some fans were surprised at the move, considering the Penguins game carried no playoff implications, and they vented as much via social media.

But Root's decision was expected by both teams.

"The Pirates, Pens and Root Sports have worked together towards our common goal of bringing as much Pirates and Pens coverage to the fans as possible," Pirates communications director Brian Warecki said in an email. "All parties discussed the options, determined the coverage plans given many different game scenarios and agreed to those plans well in advance."

MLB Network picked up coverage of the game after Root made the switch.

Root Sports general manager Shawn McClintock said in an email those discussions started in January, when the Penguins released their revised schedule.

"We all worked to maximize the 39 total games, including nine days both teams played on the same day during the month of April," McClintock said.

When the Penguins released their lockout-shortened schedule, the game Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes was originally slated to begin at 7 p.m. It was later pushed until 7:30 p.m. to help accommodate the Pirates' afternoon start for the local TV market.

McClintock said the network tried to satisfy its baseball fans by keeping the live score on the screen, showing highlights during stoppages in play in the hockey game and airing extended highlights and a postgame interview at the conclusion of the Penguins game.

Sanchez to plead case

Pitcher Jonathan Sanchez said he is looking forward to talking with league officials as part of the appeals process after Major League Baseball suspended him six games for hitting Allen Craig with a pitch Friday.

"They've got to hear my version of what happened," Sanchez said. "I respect the rules, I respect the game. I want them to respect me, too."

Sanchez did not speak with league officials before Joe Garagiola Jr., the MLB's senior vice president of standards and operations, announced the suspension Saturday afternoon.

Baseball's collective bargaining agreement says the league has 14 days from the receipt of an appeal to hold a hearing, either in person or via teleconference. During that time, Sanchez is eligible to play.

But his future on the team is tenuous, at best. Manager Clint Hurdle will determine today whether Sanchez, who is 0-2 with a 12.71 ERA this season, will make his next scheduled start Wednesday.

General manager Neal Huntington said his understanding is the pending suspension would not prohibit the team from moving Sanchez off the major league roster. Within the next couple weeks, Francisco Liriano (fractured right humerus) and Charlie Morton (Tommy John Surgery) will finish rehabilitation assignments and be ready to join the Pirates' rotation.

More issues for McPherson

Minor league pitcher Kyle McPherson is still experiencing discomfort in his right elbow, more than two weeks after being placed on the disabled list.

McPherson took two weeks off from a throwing program, and Huntington said that will continue. He received an injection April 15 to reduce inflammation.

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Michael Sanserino: msanserino@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1722 or on Twitter @msanserino.


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