After splitting a four-game series in Cincinnati, the Pittsburgh Pirates head west for a pair of interleague sets, starting with a three-game weekend in Anaheim.
Of course, when National League teams head to AL ballparks, they need someone to fill the designated hitter spot. Conveniently, the Pirates will have a new option off the bench for at least the rest of the road trip.
According to Dan Zangrilli of 93.7 The Fan, the Pirates have summoned 2009 first-round draft pick Tony Sanchez from Triple-A Indianapolis to join the big-league club in southern California. Sanchez, 25, has played 382 minor-league games – including 157 in Indy – since the Bucs tabbed him with the fourth-overall selection four years ago.
Sanchez wasn’t a popular choice among most Pirates fans in 2009. The Bucs selected the righty-swinging catcher partially because they knew his contract demands wouldn’t bee too steep, leaving current MLB pitchers Shelby Miller, Mike Minor, Mike Leake and Drew Storen on the board, among others.
Sanchez, whose defense was his primary selling point when he left Boston College, has burnished both sides of his game over the past four summers. Evidently that improvement was enough for Pirates general manager Neal Huntington and his player-development staff.
With the DH spot available for the next five games, it’s possible Pirates starting catcher Russell Martin gets to leave his mask in the equipment bag while Sanchez steps behind the plate. Bucs backup Michael McKenry has visibly struggled throwing out opposing base-stealers in recent weeks, an area in which Sanchez should provide reinforcement.
This season in Indianapolis, Sanchez has a triple-slash batting line of 306/389/563 (AVG/OBP/SLG). The 5-foot-11, 225-pounder has 29 extra-base hits in 211 plate appearances, including nine homers.
Now he is poised to make his major-league debut, joining a roster that features seven other first-round draft picks. Gerrit Cole (2011), Pedro Alvarez (2008), Andrew McCutchen (2005) and Neil Walker (2004) are all Pirates’ opening-rounders.
Friday night’s game is already notable for being Cole’s first MLB road start, but it might be a banner evening for Sanchez, too.