At some point, the Pirates were going to replace Michael McKenry with Tony Sanchez. But season-ending surgery, announced Wednesday, expedited that transition.
McKenry had surgery Tuesday to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee, an injury he sustained Saturday. He will miss the remainder of the regular season, making Sanchez, 25, the backup catcher behind Russell Martin.
Team doctors diagnosed McKenry with the injury, and specialist Dr. Neal ElAttrache agreed with the initial assessment and performed the surgery in Los Angeles.
Even before the injury, Sanchez seemed poised to make the jump to the major leagues. He had a .288 batting average, .368 on-base percentage and .504 slugging percentage this season for Class AAA Indianapolis, while McKenry's statistics were .217/.262/.348. McKenry never has hit above .233 in the majors.
Sanchez made his major league debut in June when the Pirates played five games against American League opponents, seeing action only as a designated hitter. He got his first career start behind the plate Tuesday in a 6-0 victory against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Earlier in July, manager Clint Hurdle said the team had discussed bringing Sanchez up permanently, but that the young catcher still had to improve his defense. Now, Sanchez is going to get a chance to learn from one of the best defensive catchers while honing some of the skills that prompted the organization to draft him in the first round in 2009.
Barring another injury or a trade, Sanchez will play once or twice a week. Before a game Wednesday, general manager Neal Huntington said that the team explored the catching market for some emergency help, but that they had faith in Sanchez to fill that role.
"We're very comfortable with Tony Sanchez up here as a major league-caliber catcher," he said. "We did look to see if there was a guy that would provide us with some emergency insurance. We'll continue to explore that market. There are some guys in [Class AAA} that have some major league ability that we'll continue to look [at] for a small trade."
Snider's toe was a pain
Outfielder Travis Snider has played most of the season with a turf-toe like injury in his left foot, he disclosed late Tuesday night. Snider recently got a platelet-rich plasma injection in the toe, hoping to relieve some of the pain that increased over the past month.
It's an injury that happened late last season, but Snider said he tried his best to eliminate the injury.
But since it is his left toe, it is more challenging. As a left-handed hitter, his plant leg is his left, but planting his foot further aggravated the injury and disturbed his mechanics.
His average hovered around .300 most of April, but fell to .219 by the time he hit the disabled list Sunday. Snider hadn't had a multi-hit game since June 15 and was mired in a 5-for-32 slump.
"Early on in the season, I was still getting work done and making sure the maintenance was working as far as taping it and whatnot by really staying on top of that stuff," he said. "We just found that in the last couple weeks the things that had been working for most of the season were just starting to catch up to me.
"Over the course of six months you play through some aches and pains, and that's what we do as baseball players until we get to the point where we say, 'is this helping or hurting the team?'
Cardinals have injuries, too
Before the game Wednesday, the Cardinals put catcher Yadier Molina and outfielder Shane Robinson on the disabled list and recalled outfielder Adron Chambers and first baseman/outfielder Brock Peterson. Molina has a right knee sprain, and Robinson has a right shoulder sprain.
Everett Cook: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @everettcook.