It wasn’t looking good for Pittsburgh Pirates catching prospect Tony Sanchez to be at PNC Park on Opening Day, not with veteran newcomer Chris Stewart joining incumbent starter Russell Martin on the roster.
That concept has changed, however, as the Pirates confirmed Monday that Stewart will likely require knee surgery after injuring himself in a Grapefruit League game last week. The Bucs said the 32-year-old backstop will seek the opinion of Dr. James Andrews before deciding on a course of action.
Stewart arrived in Pittsburgh via trade from the Yankees this winter, reuniting New York’s catching tandem from 2012. A draft pick of the White Sox in 2001, Stewart has consistently been a below-average MLB hitter, but his defensive reputation is excellent.
In fact, both Stewart and Martin were featured prominently in a recent Baseball Prospectus study on the value of framing pitches and blocking balls in the dirt. The two veteran Pirates catchers were listed among the best in the big leagues at those disciplines.
The 25-year-old Sanchez has yet to make such a name for himself, if only because he has but 22 MLB games to his credit, all coming last season. The fourth-overall pick in the 2009 draft has had his struggles progressing through the minor leagues, but his skills appear to be polished enough at this point to withstand extending playing time with the Pirates.
We could be about to find out one way or another, as it seems probable the former Boston College star will come north with the Pirates at the end of the month. Sanchez has turned in a .296/.345/.556 line in 12 spring games thus far.
How long Sanchez sticks with Pittsburgh will be up to him.