BRADENTON, Fla. -- Clearly, Freddy was not ready.
The Pirates yesterday placed Freddy Sanchez, the National League's batting champion, on the 15-day disabled list because of his sprained right knee. The listing was backdated to March 23, so Sanchez is eligible to come off Saturday in Cincinnati and is sure to miss at least the first four games.
Which sounds fine by him, so long as it buys him time to get comfortable with a bat in his hands.
"It wasn't so much the knee. It was about feeling good at the plate," Sanchez said. "I gave them my honest opinion, and that was going to be the case whether I was a pinch-hitter or not."
With Sanchez's status cleared up, Brad Eldred, Ryan Doumit and Humberto Cota were named to fill out the Pirates' bench and complete the 25-man roster.
Sanchez was injured March 6 when the Philadelphia Phillies' Rod Barajas slid into him at second base. He resumed game activity four days ago in minor-league camp and looked fine in the early stages, but he seemed plenty frustrated after going hitless in multiple at-bats Friday.
The Pirates had considered keeping Sanchez on the roster just to pinch-hit until fully recovered, but they deferred to his wish after a lengthy discussion yesterday morning.
"It was just a matter of not having enough at-bats and running out of time," general manager Dave Littlefield said. "As always, we're working off how the player feels."
"It's frustrating and disappointing that I can't be out there to start the season. This is why you work so hard," Sanchez said. "But I'm not prepared right now to go out there for one good, quality at-bat in the ninth inning off Brad Lidge."
Lidge is the closer for the Houston Astros, the Pirates' opponent in the opener tomorrow.
Sanchez played in a minor-league game yesterday at the Baltimore Orioles' complex in Sarasota and will be in a simulated game today at Pirate City. He is expected to hit, run bases and play defense.
From there, it is highly likely he will have a rehabilitation stint of two or three games with Class AAA Indianapolis, which opens its season Thursday. Sanchez also did not rule out that he could wait until the Pirates' home opener April 9 to return, giving him the full weekend with Indianapolis.
Jose Castillo will take Sanchez's place at second base, and Ronny Paulino probably will take his No. 3 spot in the batting order. That will allow Adam LaRoche and Jason Bay to remain fourth and fifth.