Spring Synopsis: Sanchez, two others go deep

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The game: Freddy Sanchez, Craig Monroe and Garrett Jones each hit a monster home run in the Pirates' 11-4 rout of the Houston Astros at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla.

Ross Ohlendorf made his second start and pitched efficiently enough for the longest spring start of the staff -- 3 1/3 innings -- and allowed two runs and six hits, striking out two. He improved the changeup that had been bugging him but struggled with the slider.

"I was pretty happy with it overall," Ohlendorf said

Sanchez's home run, which landed on the roof of the Boys & Girls Club well beyond left field, came in the third and pulled the Pirates within 2-1. Monroe's, a two-run shot, made it 3-2 and topped Sanchez's distance, sailing high over the scoreboard in left-center. Jones' home run, another two-run shot, came in the fifth and landed in the parking lot well beyond right for a 6-4 lead.

"I'm not just saying this, but this is the best I've felt in a spring training," Sanchez said. "It's nice to wake up in the morning and feel good about your body and just come to work. Yeah, I'm having a lot of fun."

The Pirates are 8-3 in Grapefruit League play.

Today: Tom Gorzelanny will face the Boston Red Sox's Jon Lester, 1:05 p.m. in Bradenton. Sean Burnett, Craig Hansen, Tyler Yates, Brian Slocum and Chris Bootcheck will follow. It will be Slocum's spring debut after missing time to a strained hamstring.

Injury update: Infielder Jarek Cunningham, the Pirates' 18th-round draft pick last year and No. 13 prospect according to Baseball America, will miss the entire 2009 season because of reconstructive surgery for a torn ACL in his left knee. He was hurt during a conditioning drill Saturday.

He first will undergo a month of rehabilitation for his MCL, then have the surgery on the ACL.

Cunningham, 19, had an exceptional debut with Bradenton of the Gulf Coast League, batting .328 with five home runs and 22 RBIs in 148 at-bats. He was projected to bypass short-season ball this summer and play for low Class A West Virginia, moving from third base to second because of the organization's depth at third.

"It's tough but, like I told Jarek, he'd be redshirting in college right now, still two years away from the draft," director of player development Kyle Stark said. "It's not the end of anything."

Camp roster: 58, with 28 pitchers, six catchers, 14 infielders and 10 outfielders. General manager Neal Huntington said the first cuts of the spring will come "early next week," with a larger wave a week later.

Competition: Rule 5 draft pick Donnie Veal had his first erratic outing, allowing two runs in the fifth inning without a hit. There were four walks, a balk and a wild pitch.

"He struggled with his command, and it was bound to happen," manager John Russell said. "But he settled and found his slot to get out of it, which was nice to see."

Fun in the sun: Replicating the Sunday atmosphere at PNC Park, the Pirates -- with the help of Bradenton police -- shut down a block of 9th Street West outside McKechnie for an all-day street carnival. Several players took turns going out to the street to sign autographs.

Inside pitch: Andy Phillips, almost a lock to be a reserve infielder, credited his current 6-for-8 tear to hitting coach Don Long, who advised him to lower his hands during his stance.

"I was taking them higher and higher all of last year and didn't even realize it," Phillips said.

Meet me in St. Louis: 29 days until the opener.


Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at dkovacevic@post-gazette.com . Catch more on the Pirates at the PG's PBC Blog .


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