ST. LOUIS -- The Pirates set their National League Division Series playoff roster hours before the opener Thursday with two notable absences: catcher Tony Sanchez and outfielder Travis Snider.
Sanchez, the team's first-round pick in 2009, made his major league debut earlier this season. But the Pirates chose to keep veteran John Buck, acquired from the New York Mets in August, as the backup for Russell Martin.
"I just think it comes down to experience," manager Clint Hurdle said. "The levels of experience, also, just dugout experience, all the different parts of it that come with being that backup catcher. John has a lot of it, but he's been a catcher a little bit longer than Tony, and I think that's going to help us."
Sanchez, 25, played sparingly in September, when the Pirates carried three catchers. But he hit .263 in seven games, including four starts.
"Grateful for every opportunity that was given to me," Sanchez tweeted Thursday afternoon. "There's no experience more valuable than what this season has provided."
Buck, 33, hit .292 since joining the Pirates in late August.
Hurdle said it is unlikely either Buck or Sanchez would play much in this playoff series. If healthy, Martin will start every game in the postseason, and the backup catcher will be used only in emergency situations.
Of the 25 active players, 11 are pitchers, 8 are infielders, 4 are outfielders and 2 are catchers.
The Pirates left Snider off the roster in favor of the speedy, and versatile, Josh Harrison and Garrett Jones, another left-handed hitter.
Harrison (.207) and Snider (.205) have nearly identical batting averages as pinch-hitters this year, but Harrison can play in the infield and outfield. Though Snider has hit three pinch-hit home runs and Jones has just four hits as a pinch-hitter, having another first baseman in addition to Justin Morneau and Gaby Sanchez is comforting to Hurdle.
"Not an easy decision by any means," Hurdle said. "But, at the end of the day, we feel we're best suited to take on this five-game series with Harrison and Jones in play."
If they advance, the Pirates can set a new 25-man roster for the National League Championship Series. The remaining players on the team's active roster at the end of the regular season are now part of the team's taxi squad and could serve as injury replacements.
Federal Street info
The Pirates will open PNC Park today for a Game 2 watch party with first pitch at 1:07 p.m.
The team shut down Federal Street Thursday for a game-watch party, but because today's game is earlier in the afternoon, it will be too bright for a projection screen. Instead, it will be played on the scoreboard at PNC Park.
The game will be broadcast on MLB Network.
Sunday start: 4:37 p.m.
Major League Baseball announced Thursday that Game 3 Sunday at PNC Park between the Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals will start at 4:37 p.m. TBS will televise the game. Game 2 Friday will start at 1 p.m. MLB has not announced a start time for a potential Game 4 or 5.
Beltran a nemesis for A.J.
Cardinals switch-hitting outfielder Carlos Beltran entered Thursday with a .318 batting average (14 for 44) and two home runs in his career against Pirates starter A.J. Burnett.
It didn't take long for history to repeat itself.
Beltran crushed a three-run homer in the third, sparking a seven-run inning for the Cardinals that chased Burnett from the game. The homer traveled 443 feet into the second deck, the second-longest homer by a left-handed hitter at Busch Stadium.
Beltran also entered the game with a .782 postseason slugging percentage -- a number that increased after that mammoth home run.
At home on road
With a single in the fourth Thursday, Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen has reached base safely in his past 27 road games, dating to Aug. 9 against the Colorado Rockies.
He entered the game as a career .343 hitter at Busch Stadium.
Michael Sanserino: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino. First Published October 4, 2013 4:00 AM