BRADENTON — Catching prospect Tony Sanchez may have had a disappointing 2011 season in his first season at Double-A Altoona, but for his first Spring Training game in 2012, Sanchez made a good first impression.
In his first at-bat in game action this spring, Sanchez took the first pitch from righty reliever Jared Hughes over the center field wall for a three-run bomb in the 7th inning in Team Gold’s 4-4 tie against team Black at McKechnie Field on Friday.
“It just goes to show hard work in the off-season pays off,” Sanchez said. “First [at-bat] off live pitching, not knowing what’s coming and two outs. I was trying to be aggressive. Obviously everyone knows about the lack of power of the offense last year and it was nice to see that I can drive the ball again like a man. That was actually the first thing I thought about running the bases: Oh, there it is. Finally. I’ve waited a year for the ball to sound like that off the bat. It felt good.”
A former first round pick by Pittsburgh in 2009 out of Boston College, Sanchez hit just .241 in 2011, a year removed from a huge 2010 season where Sanchez hit for a .314 average. Over the offseason, Sanchez said he was working hard six or seven days a week in order to have a bounce back year.
“I was in the gym making sure my body was as strong as possible,” Sanchez said. “Doing everything that I can to get my body to where it’s at now. So that I can have the weight that I need to play at during the season, and the weight that I need to drive the ball like that.”
“It was a good swing on that bat for Tony,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said. “Good for him. Nothing breeds hitters confidence like a little success.”
Right-hander Kevin Correia started for Team Gold on Friday, marking his first game action since ending the 2011 season on the disabled list with a strained oblique. Correia allowed one hit over one inning with two strikeouts.
“It was the best one-inning start I think I’ve ever had,” Correia said. “Everything felt fine. It wasn’t obviously a whole lot of pitches, but everything went well. That was the first time we kind of had a hitter in front of us that didn’t know what was coming. Just getting the feel again, getting back out there again in front of people.”
“There’s some momentum for him,” Hurdle said. “For all the guys, everybody who dealt with an injury that comes back and play. It was a good step forward for Kevin.”
Right-hander Jeff Karstens started for Team Black and allowed three hits over two innings with two strikeouts.
“There was some positives to take out of [the outing]. I left some balls up, they got hits. Which is natural,” Karstens said. “We did some things well. There are still some things I want to work on.”
The highlight of the outing for Karstens? Getting Pedro Alvarez to strikeout on a curveball.
“That’s bragging rights right there. I saw him chasing the heat waiting for it.”
Despite it being just an intrasquad game, Hurdle said there were a lot of standouts in the 4-4 tie game today.
“I thought the overall defense was good,” Hurdle said. “There was no errors on the board at the end of the day…I was happy with the aggressiveness from the bases stealers, the jumps. Two strike approach was pretty good. The strikeouts on the day. The volume of the pitching done today, they targeted the ball up, they hit the middle out. They used both sides of the plate very well…They were efficient with their pitches. It was a good day.”
“All our planning is in place. We want to be aggressive on the bases. We want to be efficient with the ball on defense. We want to throw strikes. We want to move the ball around the plate. We want to have secondary pitches in place. We will keep an eye on all those staples that we put in the offseason to build towards opening day.”
- The Buccos showed off their speed on both teams this afternoon. Andrew McCutchen went 2-for-2 with a double and two stolen bases. His first swipe came in the first inning. Outfielder Alex Presley also stole a base for Team Black, who started in left field. Chase d’Arnaud and Starling Marte, who came in as replacements, both hit a triple.
- Gold pitchers:
- Black pitchers:
- Infielder Matt Hague, who started at first base, went 2-for-3 with a double and scored the first run of the game on Michael McKenry’s RBI-single in the 3rd inning. The two bagger by Hague came off Pirates first round pick (No. 1 overall) in the 2011 draft, Gerrit Cole.
- Infielder Jeff Clement went 2-for-2 with a walk and an RBI for Team Black. Infielder Yamaico Navarro played the first five innings at shortstop for Team Gold and went 2-for-2 at the plate.
- All proceeds from today’s Black vs. Gold intra squad game will be split between the Manatee Education Foundation, Wakeland Elementary School and GD Rodgers Elementary School ($14,644).
Saturday Game Notes:
- Saturday kicks off the first Grapefruit League game of the spring. The Pirates will face the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin at 1:05.
- Lineup: Jose Tabata 9, Clint Barmes 6, Neil Walker 4, Casey McGehee 3, Yamaico Navarro 5, Nate McLouth 8, Jake Fox DH, Gorkys Hernandez 7, Michael McKenry 2
- Right-hander James McDonald will start for the Bucs.
- Following McDonald in relief are: Brad Lincoln, Chris Resop, Daniel McCutchen, Tony Watson, Chris Leroux, Ryota Igarashi and Juan Cruz
- Backup relief pitchers (minors): Jose Diaz, Ryan Beckman, Michael Dubee
- Extras: Josh Harrison, Nick Evans, Starling Marte, Matt Hague and Eric Fryer