The Times West Virginian


February 26, 2014

Pirates hope Sanchez is answer at first base

BRADENTON, Fla. — The longer the Pittsburgh Pirates go without finding a new first baseman, the closer Gaby Sanchez gets to claiming the job.

Sanchez, though, does not want to get the spot by default. He’d prefer to earn it.

General manager Neal Huntington tried in December to lure free agent James Loney, but he wound up re-signing with the Tampa Bay Rays. Kendrys Morales is still available, but the Pirates will sign him only at a bargain rate. Ike Davis, Mitch Moreland, Justin Smoak and Adam Lind have been mentioned as trade possibilities, but so far nothing has materialized.

“We’ve not made a move because we’ve got some comfort with Gaby and our internal options,” Huntington said. “But we are always looking for ways to improve our team.”

The Pirates opened spring training camp with three candidates to be their opening day first baseman: Sanchez, Andrew Lambo and Chris McGuiness.

Lambo hit 32 home runs last season in the minors, but has made just 41 career starts at first base. He’s getting a crash course in the position this spring.

“Andrew does a couple things like an outfielder in the infield,” infield coach Nick Leyva said. “We’ve got to break those bad habits.”

McGuiness was acquired at the end of December in a small trade with the Texas Rangers. He has extensive experience at first base, but also is with his fourth organization in a six-year span. McGuiness has appeared in only 10 major league games.

That leaves Sanchez.

Three years ago, Sanchez hit 19 home runs and was an All-Star with the Miami Marlins. But he fell out of favor when his production lagged. Sanchez spent part of 2012 at Triple-A before being traded to the Pirates.

Last year, the 30-year-old Sanchez platooned with Garrett Jones. In 136 games, Sanchez batted .233 with seven homers and 36 RBIs. Among first basemen with at least 200 plate appearances, Sanchez ranked ninth with a .778 on-base plus slugging percentage.

Huntington believes Sanchez has more talent than his stats have shown so far. So does Sanchez.

“I’ve always felt I could take first base and be perfect there,” Sanchez said. “It’s out of my hands. All I can do is work hard, train hard and show, ‘Hey, I am here. I definitely can help the team.’ If we get somebody else, I’ll help out however I can.”

After the Pirates were eliminated in the NL Division Series, Sanchez took off 10 days and relaxed with his family in Miami. On day 11, he began intense, daily workouts with a personal trainer.

“It was just me and one other guy for a good month before other guys started trickling in,” Sanchez said. “It was good. I wanted to get after it, get started.”

Last year’s media guide listed Sanchez’s weight as 230 pounds, but he looked and moved like he was at least 10 pounds heavier. This spring, Sanchez checked into camp at 235 pounds after losing a lot of flab and gaining muscle.

Sanchez’s trimmer body is the product of a stepped-up conditioning program. Many of the exercises were targeted for baseball-related skills — short sprints, ladder drills and workouts in a sand pit.

“It was designed to give me more explosive first steps,” Sanchez said. “That plays a big part at first base. I’m not a typical first baseman who plays closer to the line; I play off the line as much as I possibly can. I need to be quick enough to get back to the base. Maybe now I can get another step off than I could last year. Maybe I can take away one or two hits each week.”

Sanchez will make $2.3 million this season and has one year of arbitration eligibility left. This could be his final chance to show the Pirates he deserves a bigger, longer contract.

“Guys get to the point where they recognize there’s a big opportunity for them,” Huntington said. “Gaby’s got the first opportunity in camp to become a regular first baseman again.”

NOTES: The Pirates played an intrasquad scrimmage Tuesday. They opened the Grapefruit League season Wednesday against the New York Yankees at McKechnie Field. ... INF Brent Morel, who was claimed off waivers Monday night, reported to camp Tuesday.

Text Only
  • Harrison’s 4 hits leads Pirates past Rockies, 7-5

    Josh Harrison had four hits, including a tiebreaking homer, to help the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Colorado Rockies 7-5 on Sunday.

    July 27, 2014

  • Pirates fall victim to Rockies, 8-1

    Nolan Arenado bounced back from a benching with three hits, including a home run, and the Colorado Rockies beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-1 on Saturday night.
    Tyler Matzek pitched three-hit ball over seven scoreless innings. Drew Stubbs and Corey Dickerson also homered for the Rockies, who have won three straight.

    July 27, 2014

  • Pirates jump on Haren early, top Dodgers, 6-1

    Josh Harrison had two hits with two RBIs and the Pittsburgh Pirates jumped on Dan Haren early in a 6-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night.
    Harrison’s two-run double down the left field line capped a four-run outburst in the first against Haren (8-8).

    July 24, 2014

  • Pirates jump on Haren early, top Dodgers, 6-1

    osh Harrison had two hits with two RBIs and the Pittsburgh Pirates jumped on Dan Haren early in a 6-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night.

    July 23, 2014

  • Pirates beat Rockies 5-3 for 3-game sweep

    Andrew McCutchen hit a tiebreaking single in the seventh inning, Neil Walker followed with a home run and the Pittsbugh Pirates overcame a three-run deficit to beat the Colorado Rockies 5-3 Sunday for a three-game sweep.

    July 20, 2014

  • Pirates rally by Rockies in 11

    Jordy Mercer doubled home Neil Walker with one out in the bottom of the 11th inning to lift the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night.
    Walker led off the inning with a single against Colorado’s Chad Bettis (0-2), moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, and scored one batter later when Mercer hit a drive deep into the gap in left-center.

    July 20, 2014

  • Pirates rally late, top Rockies, 4-2

    Travis Snider’s pinch-hit double in the eighth scored Neil Walker to spark the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 4-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Friday night.
    Walker trotted home when Colorado right fielder Carlos Gonzalez couldn’t track down Snider’s sinking line drive off reliever Matt Belisle (2-5). All-Star Josh Harrison added a sacrifice fly one batter later.

    July 19, 2014

  • Resilient Pirates looking for post All-Star surge

    The Pittsburgh Pirates find themselves in an average, every day — if still heated — pennant race.

    July 18, 2014

  • Jeter, Trout lead AL over NL 5-3 in All-Star game

    Derek Jeter soaked in the adulation from fans and players during one more night on baseball’s national stage, set the tone for the American League with a pregame speech and then delivered two final All-Star hits.
    Mike Trout, perhaps the top candidate to succeed the 40-year-old Yankees captain as the face of the game, seemed ready to assume the role with a tiebreaking triple and later a go-ahead double that earned him MVP honors.

    July 16, 2014

  • NL Central race should be fun

    If you’re a baseball fan, you’re going to want to watch the race for the National League Central division in the second half of the season.

    July 14, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Sports
House Ads