The Pirates activated Chris Stewart from the 15-day disabled list Saturday, inserting him into the role of backup catcher, and optioned Tony Sanchez to Class AAA Indianapolis.
Stewart had arthroscopic surgery March 19 to repair the meniscus in his right knee.
"It's good to be back to try to help this team win some ballgames and get back to the playoffs," Stewart said.
Stewart injured the knee in a spring training game, though not on any particular play. In four rehabilitation games with Indianapolis, Stewart went 6 for 15 with a double and a walk.
"I don't know if [Dr. James] Andrews put some hits in my knee or something when he gave me surgery," Stewart joked. "It's just nice to get out there on the field and know that I'm healthy and I can contribute now."
Manager Clint Hurdle had a set of tasks he wanted Stewart to accomplish before rejoining the Pirates and Stewart knocked down all of them.
"I think it was just a matter of the repetition, playing back-to-back games for the majority of the game," Stewart said. "I caught back-to-back nines the past two and I pretty much cleared the hurdles."
The Pirates traded for Stewart this winter to serve as a backup to Russell Martin and allow Sanchez, 25, to finish his development in the minors.
"Now [Sanchez] needs to play," Hurdle said. "There's a bat there that needs to get reps, there's a throwing arm and a defensive skill set that needs reps, as well. He's looking very much forward to going down and getting engaged in an environment when he's going to have an opportunity to play multiple times, maximum times throughout the week."
Sanchez went 6 for 18 in six games with the Pirates, including a walk-off single in a 16-inning win.
"He was in here [Saturday] and we spoke at length," Hurdle said. "Thanked him for his service here, his willingness to work and still play, to continue to work on what he's got to do to meet the demands of the games up here, whether it be game-scheming, throwing, blocking.
Ishikawa odd man out
First baseman Travis Ishikawa was designated for assignment to make room for Ike Davis on the active roster. The Pirates have 10 days to trade or release Ishikawa, who made the team as a non-roster invitee.
Jordy Mercer was not in the starting lineup one night after taking a slide to the right ankle while covering second base forced him from the game.
"Jordy showed up today feeling a little bit better," Hurdle said. "He was going to go through a treatment period and then an activation period."
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG.