Pirates Notebook: Management 'impressed' by Sanchez's game work
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BRADENTON, Fla. -- Freddy Sanchez took a significant stride toward showing he could open the season.
And management noticed.
Sanchez, out since March 6 because of a sprained right knee, played second base for the first time, ran all the bases for the first time and went 2 for 8 at the plate -- with three other solidly struck outs -- in a minor-league scrimmage yesterday at Pirate City.
"I was very impressed," manager Jim Tracy said. "I watched him center one ball after another, and he had very good mobility in the field."
Tracy would not say if Sanchez moved closer to avoiding the 15-day disabled list, but he did strongly indicate that management will let Sanchez dictate that.
"I am going to listen to what the player tells us," he said.
Tracy acknowledged management is considering keeping Sanchez on the roster as a pinch-hitter until he is fully recovered.
"That's one option."
Sanchez complained of feeling restricted by a soft knee brace he wore for the first time -- one he said he hopes to discard today -- and allowed to having some lingering pain. But he also sounded satisfied.
"We talked about what to expect, and that's right where I wanted to be," he said. "Anybody who knows me knows I wasn't going to go out there and be tentative."
He was anything but. In his fourth at-bat, he hit a routine bouncer to third, but Mike Edwards' high throw pulled first baseman Yurendell DeCaster off the bag. Sanchez noticed and dived headfirst -- safely -- under the tag.
"Your instincts take over," Sanchez said.
There was another encouraging element: Sanchez's hits -- and six of his at-bats -- came against starter Ian Snell, who was not taking it easy on him.
"Me and Freddy had a pretty good battle," Snell said, grinning.
Chacon gets scare
Shawn Chacon had quite the early awakening in the Pirates' 5-5 tie with the Philadelphia Phillies at McKechnie Field.
A line drive by Philadelphia's Michael Bourn on the third pitch of the game yesterday struck Chacon on the upper right chest and ricocheted under his chin. That felled Chacon momentarily, but he went on to pitch three innings while giving up four runs.
"It was pretty scary, but I got lucky," he said.
Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell homered against Chacon in consecutive at-bats in the third.
Other game highlights
Reliever Juan Perez again was superb: In his 1-2-3 fifth, he got a grounder from Chase Utley, then froze Howard and Burrell with dazzling curveballs. "I'm feeling comfortable right now," Perez said. He has given up no runs and three hits in 10 outings.
The Pirates wanted to see patience out of Brad Eldred this spring, and he has 11 walks -- another one yesterday -- to rank ninth in Major League Baseball. He had an RBI double, too.
Jason Bay doubled his RBI total from three to six with run-scoring doubles to the wall in his first two at-bats. Bay, 6 for his past 14 at bats, is batting .295.
Reliever John Grabow, out since March 11 because of an inflamed elbow, made his first bullpen session -- 25 pitches, all fastballs -- and said he "felt great." He will have another tomorrow, but he remains highly doubtful to start the season.
Snell, in his final tuneup, pitched five innings and allowed two earned runs at Pirate City. Flat breaking stuff cost him five first-inning hits, but he soon settled.
Tom Gorzelanny will try to lower his 9.45 ERA today at McKechnie against the Minnesota Twins' Ramon Ortiz.
TOMORROW: Paul Meyer takes his annual trip through the minor-league system.
SUNDAY: Dejan Kovacevic introduces you to Adam LaRoche.
MONDAY: Opening day. How the Pirates start could well determine how they finish.
First Published March 30, 2007 12:00 am