Pirates notebook: Catching prospect Tony Sanchez needs to improve defensively

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Down at Class AAA Indianapolis, Tony Sanchez continues to post big numbers. He is batting .295 with a .377 on base percentage and a .532 slugging percentage.

Such statistics would significantly upgrade the Pirates bench.

Still, there is some hesitation to call up one of the Pirates' best prospects. The big concern is that calling up Sanchez will slow his development because his plate appearances would be less consistent. He played in two games with the Pirates in June, getting eight plate appearances, but he has been back down at AAA Indianapolis since.

"It's changes, it's slowing the game down when the game has a tendency to get fast," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "It's all things every player has to work on, but the only way you are going to get them is when you continually get in those situations and learn from them. You have to make some mistakes. He's making progress, probably the most progress that we've seen in a start from spring training to this point right now."

Current backup catcher Michael McKenry is struggling at the plate with three hits in his past 36 at-bats, and is batting .189 with a .245 on base percentage and a .326 slugging percentage.

"As we move forward, we've already had a couple conversations about how we are best serving and utilizing Tony's talents in the immediate future," Hurdle said. "When do you decide that he is able to come up here. He's possibly your backup catcher because he's not going to start in front of Russell [Martin] right now, and we have Russell under contract for another year.

"Those conversations are ongoing and are real, but he does have some things to work on."

Hurdle provided no specifics, but the consensus has been that Sanchez's defense is still a work in progress and that he's still working on calling pitches.

Trade deadline talk

McKenry isn't the only one struggling offensively. There are several others batting under or right above .200, and, with the trade deadline approaching, there are several holes that conceivably might be filled.

"Sometimes, it's more difficult for the person outside the clubhouse or organization to understand some of the challenges that come with just wanting to go out and get a guy," he said. "We could have gotten [Hunter] Pence or [Shane] Victorino last year.

"That left fielder [Starling Marte] playing out there right now? Wouldn't be here. That's the way it is. We like our left fielder right now, but we had a lot of kickback the other way. That's part of it."

Hurdle also mentioned that it's not as easy as swapping one guy for another.

There are layers to trades that make upgrading a roster more difficult than it might appear.

"If you spend money on those guys, then maybe you don't get Russell Martin behind the plate," Hurdle said.

"As we work through these situations, there's a lot more to consider then just the A-to-B move. Sometimes, there's a C-to-D move."

Walker on DL; Harrison back

The Pirates put Neil Walker on the 15-day disabled list before the game Tuesday because of lingering pain in his right side and recalled infielder Josh Harrison from Class AAA Indianapolis.

Walker left the game Saturday afternoon in Chicago because of the side pain.

His DL stint is retroactive to Sunday, meaning the earliest he can return is July 22 against the Washington Nationals on the road.

The injury continues to bother Walker when he bats left-handed, but because of the All-Star break, he will miss only 10 games.

Harrison was hitting .317 with Indianapolis this season.

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Everett Cook: ecook@post-gazette.com and on Twitter @EverettCook. First Published July 10, 2013 4:00 AM


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