Pirates notebook: Team is set at first base with Sanchez, Ishikawa



BRADENTON, Fla. — Gaby Sanchez wrapped up his Grapefruit League season Thursday, still standing at first base for the Pirates.

The club sought an upgrade at the position this winter, never pulled the trigger on a deal, and repeatedly stated a comfort level with Sanchez. Come Monday, they’ll stand by that.

“There’s not more drive just because I might play a little bit more,” said Sanchez. “When my name gets called and I’m in there, I’m going to give it my best go out there and try to produce and help the team win. I don’t think that because you’re starting every day you’re going to have a different drive than a guy sitting on the bench waiting for his name to get called.”

The Pirates plan to retain Travis Ishikawa to play first base, too, but still need to add him to the 40-man roster and ultimately the 25-man roster.

The position won’t be a classic platoon, with Sanchez expected to see more at-bats.

“We got a first basemen in place with Ishikawa and Sanchez. We’ll start that way. They won’t be a complementary platoon by definition,” said manager Clint Hurdle.

Sanchez hit .310 this spring until going 0 for 2 Thursday against Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia, which dropped his average to .290.

What Sanchez does think — and what the Pirates hope — is that more regular playing time will get his splits closer.

Sanchez has a reputation for “crushing lefties” but hit just .204 against right-handed pitching in 2013 in 194 plate appearances, and .207 in 215 plate appearances in 2012.

“I definitely think that the more you play, like any one of us, the more comfortable you’re going to feel. The more in tune and rhythm you’re going to be,” said Sanchez. “So absolutely. This spring, I’ve been hitting against both lefties and righties feeling good, feeling fine at the plate.”

His timing at bat, Sanchez believes, can be improve by fewer days off, too.

“Fielding-wise it was different because I was in there a lot fielding,” said Sanchez. “But the hitting part, the timing of the pitching, velocity of the ball coming at you is a little different. When you’re playing everyday, a guy who’s throwing 93-94 might not seem as hard as it might to a guy who hasn’t played for three days.”

But spring is over, and he’s ready to go.

“Right now, I’m feeling good,” said Sanchez. “Worked on some small little adjustments and things like that but for the most part feeling comfortable at the plate.”

Good news on Liriano

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said Francisco Liriano (groin tightness) felt good Thursday after pitching his simulated game Wednesday and is on track to start the opener. Then, he added: “He feels very good.”

Later in the afternoon Hurdle said Liriano officially is good to go Monday.

Roster takes shape

The Pirates assigned pitcher Kyle McPherson and catcher Nevin Ashley to minor league camp and optioned right-hander Brandon Cumpton to Class AAA Indianapolis, leaving 28 active players on the roster.

Hurdle said the club has no more roster decisions to make in Philadelphia, but will have to trim the roster to 25 by 3 p.m. Sunday. “We’ve just got to stay healthy,” he said.

Left-handers Jeff Locke and Andy Oliver are likely to be two of those moves, though no one has said so. That leaves one more trim from the bullpen.

Minor move

The Pirates acquired 23-year-old outfielder Keon Broxton from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for a player to be named later. Broxton is on a minor league contract and will report to Class AA Altoona.


Jenn Menendez: jmenendez@post-gazette.com and Twitter @JennMenendez.

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