Pirates Notebook: Gaby Sanchez Plays Third; Sands Talks Power
In the second half of Thursday’s blow-out loss to the Boston Red Sox, the Pittsburgh Pirates sent Gaby Sanchez out to play third base. The infielder has played third base in the past, with his last appearance at the position coming in 2009 in Triple-A. The playing time didn’t start today. The Pirates have been working Sanchez at third since the end of the 2012 season.
“We worked very hard last season with a lot of early work opportunities,” Clint Hurdle said about Sanchez at third base. “He’s been working diligently here as well. We’re going to get him in some games. We talked to him when he left last year to prepare for it coming in, part of his entrance interviews. So we’ll get him some innings at third, some defensive work there.”
Sanchez started taking ground balls last year because, as he put it “you never know”. Nick Leyva approached him after about a week of Spring Training and asked if he wanted to start taking more grounders there. When he had his entrance meeting, it was discussed that third base would bring more opportunities. Not just the opportunities of learning a new position, but the chance for more at-bats during Spring Training. Despite not playing for the past three seasons, Sanchez is starting to feel comfortable at the spot.
“I probably have been (taking ground balls) for about five days now,” Sanchez said. “Just getting my feet wet with it. Just getting my legs underneath me, working on some things, and trying to get that comfortable feeling going over there. And I felt good today.”
Can Jerry Sands Carry His Power Over to the Majors?
Jerry Sands has been involved in two big trades in the last year. In August of 2012 he was involved in the blockbuster deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto to the Dodgers. Sands was one of five players to go to the Red Sox, along with a lot of newly added salary space. In the off-season, the outfielder was one of the main pieces in the trade that sent Joel Hanrahan from the Pirates to the Red Sox.
“It’s kind of a different experience,” Sands said of the two trades. “It was cool. It’s nice to know that I was pretty valuable to be included in two of those trades for the caliber of players that the team got back.”
The big appeal with Sands is his power. The 25-year-old has hit for power all throughout his minor league career. He’s hit 26 or more homers in each of the last three seasons in the minors, with a high of 35 in 2010 between Double-A and Triple-A. His slugging percentage hasn’t dropped below .500 since half a season in rookie ball in 2008. The big question is whether Sands can carry that power over to the majors.
“I think if you’ve got power, you’ve got power,” Sands said. “But just getting the pitches, getting in the right counts. And then not missing is the big thing. Those guys are pretty good (in the majors) to where they can minimize the mistakes they make. When you do get a mistake and you do get a pitch to hit, not missing it, that’s the big thing. In Triple-A you might get two or three in an at-bat, in the big leagues you might get one in an at-bat if you do.”
Sands is in a similar situation to Travis Snider and Clint Robinson. All three have hit for a lot of power in their minor league careers, but haven’t carried that over to the majors yet. The right fielder could be a candidate to start off the 2013 season in Triple-A, since he has an option remaining while Snider and Jose Tabata are both out of options. His power in Triple-A so far has come in the PCL, which is a very hitter friendly league. If he does go back to Triple-A, the International League will give a better indication of his true power in the upper levels. However, the ultimate test will come in the majors, and he could get that shot this year, depending on how some of the other corner outfield options work out.
**The Pirates lost 16-6 today to the Boston Red Sox. Most of the runs came as a result of horrible control. Pirates pitchers combined for 15 walks, with the bulk of those coming from three lefties who normally have poor control. Jonathan Sanchez walked four in 0.2 innings. Andrew Oliver walked three in one inning. Justin Wilson walked two in his inning.
“It was a hard day for us off the mound,” Hurdle said after the game. “Our best effort came from (Jameson Taillon), and after that we just kept getting bit. Our command wasn’t anywhere we wanted it to be or needed to be. That’s why you have Spring Training.”
**Jameson Taillon made his official Spring Training debut today, giving up one unearned run on one hit in two innings. Taillon struck out three and walked one.
“Liked it a lot,” Hurdle said of Taillon’s performance. “Liked the pace, the rhythm. Kept the ball down. Threw some very good hard breaking balls. I thought he pitched very well today. Very good poise.”