Pirates Notebook: Sanchez's shoulder 'no problem'

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Whatever has former batting champion Freddy Sanchez sinking near the Mendoza Line, it is not, all concerned insist, related to his surgically repaired right shoulder.

"No," Pirates manager John Russell said. "He hit .360 in spring training, and that's when his shoulder was hurting worse. He feels nothing when he swings. It's not a factor at all."

"It's no problem," Sanchez said. "My shoulder feels the best it has since opening day. In the field, it's fine, too."

On opening day in Atlanta, he aggravated the injury while throwing across his body after falling. But there have been no apparent setbacks since then.

Still, what about those awkward-looking, sidearm throws he still makes on occasion?

"Just a routine I've gotten into. There's been no problem at all."

So, how to explain that .213 average?

Russell's thinking is that Sanchez's penchant for swinging outside the strike zone "with success" might be getting carried too far as he presses.

"Freddy swings the bat. That's how he gets his hits. He's a great bad-ball hitter, and he reminds me of Kirby Puckett a little that way," Russell said. "But he might be expanding a little."

Minor-league report
Saturday's games

INDIANAPOLIS (14-10) lost at Toledo, 7-6, in 11 innings. RHP Luis Munoz (1-0, 5.23) allowed five runs and seven hits in four innings. He struck out two and walked three. LHP Sean Burnett (1.35) pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings of relief with a hit and two walks and was charged with a blown save. DH Craig Wilson (.232) hit his second home run and went 3 for 5 with a double and a walk. 3B Neil Walker (.186) went 2 for 6 with a double. CF Andrew McCutchen (.284) went 0 for 3 with three walks to end his 13-game hitting streak. RF Steve Pearce (.250) went 1 for 5.

ALTOONA (10-12) lost at Erie, 9-3. LHP Kyle Bloom (0-2, 8.47) allowed one run and three hits in 3 2/3 innings. RHP Ronald Belisario (12.54) allowed six runs in 1 2/3 innings of relief. CF James Boone (.308) went 1 for 4 with a walk.

LYNCHBURG (9-13) lost at Kinston, 6-5. RHP Jared Hughes (1-3, 3.81) allowed three runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings. 3B Jim Negrych (.392) went 2 for 4 with a walk and two RBIs.

HICKORY (12-11) won at Greenville, 7-2. RHP Zac Oliver (0-0, 4.50) allowed two runs and four hits in four innings. CF Austin McClune (.234) went 4 for 4 with a walk.

Sanchez minced no words when describing his performance, even when it was mentioned that he batted just .224 last April, then .317 and .343 the next two months.

"This is different," he said. "I'm just not feeling anything. Last year, I felt bad, too, but I was able to at least get a few hits to keep myself afloat. This year I don't know. I don't have an answer. I'm trying everything. Different stances. Taking more batting practice. Taking less. I don't know."

Of this he sounds certain.

"If I would just be playing a little better, I think we'd have a couple more wins. Nate McLouth's been getting on in front of me. The guys behind me all are hitting. I'm the only one who's not doing what I need to do."

It is affecting him off the field, too, he acknowledged.

"I'm becoming a worse person. It's affecting my personality, how I'm treating people. I don't know what to do. I just need to step back. I can't keep going like this."

He might have gotten a start out of the hole last night, going 2 for 4 with a double to snap an 0-for-10 slide.

Long recovering

Hitting coach Don Long's scar is healing from that splintered maple bat that struck him in the left cheek April 15 in Los Angeles, but he continues to have some issues with moving parts of his face above the left part of his mouth.

Expect Pirates president Frank Coonelly to take a leading role in pushing for Major League Baseball to address the increasingly serious issue of maple bats breaking and becoming projectiles.

Buried treasure

• Last night appeared to offer a good chance for Nyjer Morgan to get a rare start, with McLouth hitless in 14 at-bats, but Russell stuck with his starter. "Nate likes to be out there, even when he's struggling, to try to right himself on the field," Russell said. "I feel like he's earned that."

Doug Mientkiewicz started at third base rather than Jose Bautista for the second night in a row and the third time in five games. Beginnings of a platoon?

• Just like the old days: After the Pirates finish in New York Wednesday afternoon, they will take an Amtrak charter train to Washington. That will mark the third time they have done that this decade, either on that route or from New York to Philadelphia.


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