Pirates Notebook: Sanchez progresses at plate, in field
Share with others:
SARASOTA, Fla. -- It was just the first step, and one gingerly taken.
Still, Freddy Sanchez began to show the Pirates he could be ready for opening day -- even if only as a pinch-hitter -- by going 3 for 8 yesterday in a Class AAA game at the Cincinnati Reds' complex.
"I'm slowly getting into the mix," Sanchez said. "Obviously, I'm nowhere close to being where I want to be hitting-wise. But I was making some contact and, more important, seeing some pitches."
Effects from his sprained right knee were difficult to detect, as he was limited to running from home to first. But the bat looked fine, considering he was seeing live pitching for the second time since the injury March 6. The other occasion was an intrasquad scrimmage March 20.
"The knee felt good. Felt great," Sanchez said. "Hopefully, we can advance to the next step soon."
He began that process earlier in the day at Bradenton's McKechnie Field, running all bases and, for the first time, taking ground balls at second. He moved cautiously but effectively in fielding soft bouncers from coach Rusty Kuntz for a half-hour.
"He did everything," manager Jim Tracy said. "It's very encouraging."
Even so, Tracy declined to comment on management's discussion about the possibility that Sanchez could open the season as a pinch-hitter until fully recovered.
"We won't talk about that today," Tracy said. "Let's see how his activities go at the next level."
Batting second in each of the first eight innings against Class AAA Louisville, Sanchez had an infield single to deep short, a line drive to right and a shot through the right side for his hits. He also popped out twice, lined out, grounded out and bounced into a double play.
Today, Sanchez will participate in an intrasquad game at Pirate City, taking eight to 10 at-bats.
The Pirates must decide by Sunday whether or not to place Sanchez on the 15-day disabled list. If they do, he will miss the first four games.
Cota on team?
The deadline for teams to cut players with non-guaranteed contracts and pay only a quarter of the season's salary passed at 2 p.m. yesterday, bringing a strong sign that Humberto Cota will make the team as the backup catcher.
Cota, the organization's most tenured player, will make $537,000 in base pay. The Pirates would have owed $134,250 if he had been cut yesterday.
Cota has appeared in just 13 games this spring but has batted .375 with a home run and 12 RBIs, the latter total tied for second on the team.
His addition would make possible catcher Ryan Doumit becoming a general bench player.
Roster moves required
No roster moves were made yesterday, but some are expected today.
The Pirates must add reliever Dan Kolb to the 25-man roster by tomorrow or, because of an opt-out clause in his contract, he can declare free agency. Outfielder Luis Matos and utilityman Jose Hernandez have similar clauses.
All would have to be added to the 40-man roster, which now has two vacancies with the removal of infielder Javier Guzman. He cleared waivers and will be assigned to Class AA Altoona.
Torres' sinking feeling
Closer Salomon Torres shrugged off an awful outing Sunday -- one in which he failed to retire his first five batters -- with a scoreless eighth inning in the Pirates' 6-4 loss to Cincinnati yesterday at Ed Smith Stadium.
He gave up only an infield single and broke two bats with a sinker that was diving dramatically.
"It's the first time all spring where I felt like I had my sinker under control," Torres said. "And that's good. This is the time."
Other game highlights
Zach Duke, in his final tuneup for opening day, gave up three runs in six innings. Most of the damage came on back-to-back home runs by Adam Dunn and Edwin Encarnacion to lead off the sixth. He finished 0-2 with a 6.35 ERA.
Jose Castillo went 2 for 3 with his second walk of the spring to raise his average to .308.
Brad Eldred bolstered his case for bench duty with a double and walk in two late plate appearances.
Reliever Masumi Kuwata will rehabilitate for 4-6 weeks in Bradenton, then pitch for Class AAA Indianapolis. He said he never pondered retirement since his ankle injury Monday. Why? "Because I'm one of the Pirates," he said. "I'm part of the team, you know? I will rehab and, as soon as possible, I want to pitch in the majors."
General manager Dave Littlefield acknowledged the Pirates are considering Shawn Chacon for late-inning relief: "We've got some people in new roles, and there will be some evolving situations. He could be one of them."
Chacon will start against the Philadelphia Phillies' J.A. Happ today at McKechnie Field so that Ian Snell can pitch in a minor-league game.Dave Arrigo, Associated Press
Freddy Sanchez breaks for first in a minor-league game yesterday in Sarasota, Fla.
Click photo for larger image.
First Published March 29, 2007 12:00 am