Pirates notebook: Liriano, Sanchez a good fit

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Eight years of major league experience will give some knowledge to a pitcher. The Pirates are hoping that wisdom can work its way into their young catcher.

Tony Sanchez has caught four of Francisco Liriano's past five starts and three in a row, a matchup manager Clint Hurdle said was by design. Liriano has such a grasp of his arsenal -- two-seam fastball, wicked slider, mid-80s changeup -- that Hurdle hopes Sanchez can learn from how Liriano uses those pitches to approach batters.

"I think it's also a good learning curve for Tony to be working with the veteran pitcher," Hurdle said. "Getting to see how the ball can work both ways, no matter how many right-handers they throw in the lineup."

Sanchez, 25, has started eight games in his rookie season.

The Pirates wouldn't put Sanchez behind the plate with Liriano on the mound if they didn't believe he could stop Liriano's sliders in the dirt, which often bounce near the right foot of right-handers.

"We believe Tony's strengths are also the ball-blocking ability," Hurdle said.

That, in turn, helps Liriano.

"You got men on third and less than two outs, you're not afraid to bounce in the dirt," said Liriano, who noted that starter Russell Martin also blocks pitches well. "It's a good thing when you feel like that about your catcher.

"He's got a good feeling for the game, and he calls a great game, too. ... Even though it's his first year here, he's doing a great job so far."

Sanchez, for his part, believes he must earn the position and takes Liriano's performance to heart.

"For me, that's my guy," Sanchez said after Liriano's start Saturday when he allowed four runs on nine hits in four innings. "We've all developed this theory that I'm Liriano's personal catcher. I haven't earned that yet. It takes an outing to earn that title. If a guy doesn't have an outing like he's supposed to have, I take that personally.

"Him and I have taken 10 steps forward, but [Saturday] I feel like we took a step back. You get back on the grind, you do what you know how to, you take care of business and the next time, we'll be back on the same page."

Sanchez did not catch Liriano in spring training because Liriano was recovering from a broken humerus in his right arm, but Sanchez worked with him in rehab starts at Class AAA Indianapolis.

"He asks questions sometimes," Liriano said. "He's got an open mind on how to catch and be better every day. When you think like that, it makes you better every single day."

Snider still an option

Travis Snider, who is on a rehab assignment with Indianapolis, went 2 for 4 Saturday night. He is now 5 for 18 in five games for Indianapolis and Class AA Altoona.

Snider, who went on the 15-day disabled list July 28 because of pain in his left big toe, can come off the DL at any time.

His return would offer another outfield option for a unit without Starling Marte until at least Sept. 3. Before going on the DL, Snider had a .287 on-base percentage and three home runs this season.


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


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