It was just a few days into spring training that Pirates manager Clint Hurdle sat down with Gaby Sanchez and went over the team's plans for the upcoming season.
The Pirates hoped to give Travis Snider every opportunity to earn a starting spot in right field, which meant Sanchez and Garrett Jones likely would enter the 2013 season platooning at first base -- Jones against right-handed pitchers and Sanchez against left-handers.
"They had said, 'If you force our hand and you make it tough on us, who knows what's going to happen?' " Sanchez said. "My whole goal was to try to make it hard on them."
Hurdle proved Monday he wasn't bluffing when he said Sanchez could play his way into the lineup. He and Jones played so well this spring, both players earned spots in the starting lineup for opening day -- Sanchez at first base and Jones in right field.
"I take numbers and I crunch them," Hurdle said. "Then I look at the spring Gaby Sanchez had. I'm not smart enough to look at any numbers and decide that he doesn't need to play right now."
Sanchez hit .302 with four home runs this spring, and Jones hit .268 with one home run and four RBIs.
Snider hit .255 with no home runs and four RBIs.
The Pirates began planning for this possibility last week by giving Jones action in right field before and during Grapefruit League games. Jones' career ultimate zone rating, a metric that attempts to quantify how many runs a player saves or allows because of his defense, is -2.0 as a right fielder. Snider has a career 0.2 UZR in right field.
"He's not going to put us out there if we're not defensively ready," Jones said.
"I feel good out there and ready to go."
Alvarez back at No. 4 spot
Though he struggled hitting cleanup in 2012, Pedro Alvarez was the No. 4 hitter Monday for the Pirates against the Chicago Cubs.
"We were all looking for a day where we can make this move again, revisit it, so I think it's the appropriate time now," Hurdle said.
Hurdle was impressed by Alvarez's work this spring, specifically his ability to trust his swing and his aggressiveness in the strike zone.
Alvarez hit .140 with one home run and nine RBIs in 24 games in 2012 as the cleanup hitter.
Inge ready for rehabilitation
Pirates infielder Brandon Inge had an incomplete fracture of his right scapula (shoulder blade), according to sources. The team previously identified the ailment as a right scapula injury.
The team placed Inge on the 15-day disabled list Sunday, retroactive to March 26. The injury, sustained when he was hit by a pitch March 14 in a spring-training game against the Philadelphia Phillies, has similar effects to a stress fracture.
After being shut down for more than a week, Inge will soon begin a rehabilitation assignment with Class AAA Indianapolis.
Scattered DL players
It was a brief visit to Pittsburgh for most of the players on the disabled list who took part in opening-day festivities.
After joining the club for roster introductions at PNC Park, Charlie Morton (Tommy John surgery), Francisco Liriano (right humerus fracture) and Jose Contreras (Tommy John surgery) left at 4 p.m. to return to Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla., and to continue their rehabilitation. Jeff Locke, the Pirates' No. 5 starter, joined the group and will pitch in an extended spring training game to stay sharp.
Inge heads to Indianapolis, and Jeff Karstens (right shoulder inflammation) will remain in Pittsburgh.
Michael Sanserino: email@example.com, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino.