HOUSTON -- Second baseman Freddy Sanchez missed his fifth consecutive start last night because of a back injury sustained getting out a taxicab in Florida last week, but this time manager John Russell gave a time line for Sanchez's return.
"He's making progress," Russell said. "We're shooting for Friday."
Sanchez took some swings yesterday but didn't hit any live pitching.
Rather, he got in some work off a batting tee and hit soft toss into a net.
It was his first work with a bat since the injury.
About four hours before the game last night against the Houston Astros, Sanchez also played catch down the left-field line, tossing a baseball with moderate velocity and no pronounced limitations.
"Feeling a lot better," he said as he walked into the clubhouse. "I'm feeling good."
In his pregame media gathering, Russell reiterated Sanchez's worth to the Pirates and how he would like to get him back for the three-game series in Philadelphia that starts Friday night.
He also said how much it means for Sanchez to get healthy in time to play Tuesday in the All-Star Game.
Since being called up June 4, Andrew McCutchen has drawn praise from many around the league for his wide-open approach and multitooled talent. Astros manager Cecil Cooper is seeing McCutchen for the second time after a series June 5-7, and you can count him among the people whom the young center fielder has impressed.
"He looks like a pretty patient hitter," Cooper said. "He has a nice setup in his hitting style. He seems to be pretty patient and he's got some skills. Whether that plays out or not, that's to be seen. But he's got some skills.
"I just heard that he was a very, very good looking young player who had a lot of tools. And you can see he's got the tools. He can run, he play center field and there's some pop in the bat."
Three players -- pitchers Phil Dumatrait and Tyler Yates and third baseman Neil Walker -- continue their rehabilitation in Bradenton.
Dumatrait, out all season while recovering from shoulder surgery, is coming along very well and a real rehabilitation stint should be expected soon.
Yates has been throwing on flat ground for about a week and said his elbow feels better now than at any point in the past month. He estimated he will rejoin the Pirates within two to three weeks, but that is not official.
Walker (knee) has been out of Indianapolis' lineup more than a month but expects to rejoin that team this weekend.
• Russell said reliever Donnie Veal, a Rule 5 draft pick, will join the team Friday in Philadelphia after completing a rehab assignment. It was originally thought Veal would join the club here today. A corresponding move will likely be made after the game today.
• Steve Pearce has played sparingly since being recalled June 20 and had just 11 at-bats and one hit headed into the game last night. He struck out three times in a start Monday. Asked if Pearce might be better suited getting more of an opportunity in Indianapolis, Russell said: "He's not accustomed to probably doing this. We'll see where it goes. We wanted to see if we could give him the opportunity to fill a bench role right now, but if that's not working out, we will make an adjustment."