Pirates notebook: Tony Sanchez in N.Y., just in case

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NEW YORK -- Thirty-six hours before Tony Sanchez stood in the Pirates' clubhouse Saturday morning, he was heading west, away from Scranton, Pa., where he and his Class AAA Indianapolis teammates had just finished an 11-inning game.

Several hundred miles later, the catcher found himself in New York, as insurance in case Russell Martin's stiff neck does not allow Martin to play.

"It's really exciting," said Sanchez, who joined the Pirates in New York Saturday but was not officially added to the roster. "Driving into the stadium was surreal. You look at it and say, whoa, that's a big place, much bigger than I'm used to playing in."

Sanchez, the Pirates' first-round draft pick in 2009, joined the Pirates in accordance with Article XV of the collective bargaining agreement. He was allowed to work out with the Pirates Saturday, and they have until 10:10 a.m. today to add him to the active roster.

Martin, who started the game Thursday, did not play Friday or Saturday because of continued stiffness in his neck. Manager Clint Hurdle declined to specify the severity of Martin's pain.

"If I told you I ruled him out for the series, that gives [Mets manager] Terry Collins a competitive advantage and I'm not willing to do that."

If the Pirates recall Sanchez, 24, it will be his first appearance on a major league roster. He hit .269 with a .380 on-base percentage and two home runs in 25 games for Indianapolis this season.

"There's a lot more focus knowing how close I am," he said. "I knew how close I was last year, and it's not that there was a lack of focus, but just like this, you're literally on the doorstep. You're a phone call away. Every game, I took pride in my pitch calling and making sure we gave up [as few] runs as possible. Taking a stubborn approach at the plate, trying to get hits or get the job done, whatever they needed me to do."

Sanchez and the Indians spent 10 hours on a bus heading back to Indianapolis, arriving at 9 a.m. Friday morning. They played a game that night, after which Indians manager Dean Treanor informed Sanchez he was heading to New York.

"Dean and I have such a special bond, he's one of my number one supporters," Sanchez said. "He tried to keep a mean face and pretend like I did something wrong, but he smirked, and you could tell it was good news."

Morton aims to throw today

Charlie Morton hoped to throw another bullpen session today and incorporate his off-speed pitches. He threw 32 fastballs in a side session Friday. He said his shoulder, which tightened on him in his most recent rehab outing, felt good. Morton is in the final stages of recovery from Tommy John ligament replacement surgery.

Welker heads back to minors

The Pirates optioned right-hander Duke Welker to Indianapolis Saturday to make room for Francisco Liriano, who was activated from the disabled list before his start Saturday. Welker did not appear in a game.

Walker still with Altoona

Neil Walker, who is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list today, is scheduled to remain with Class AA Altoona today on his rehabilitation assignment.

Walker went on the DL because of a cut on his right hand.


Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com and on Twitter @BrinkPG.


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