How Tony Sanchez Almost Hit A.J. Burnett in the Head With a Throw

Tony Sanchez is getting more playing time with Russell Martin out.

Tony Sanchez is getting more playing time with Russell Martin out.

A.J. Burnett pitched a good inning to start today’s game, including picking off a runner at first. After the frame he was greeted in the dugout by his catcher, Tony Sanchez.

“Good job, good job,” Sanchez said to Burnett in the dugout. “Can you do me one favor please?”

“No, what?” Burnett responded. “It was a good first inning, what do you want?”

“Could you get out of the way a little bit when I’m throwing?” Sanchez asked.

Burnett doesn’t move off the mound after his last warm-up pitch. Sanchez had never caught Burnett in a game, so the young catcher didn’t know that. When Sanchez threw down to second in the first inning, the ball came a foot from Burnett’s head.

“I just don’t ever think about it,” Burnett said with a laugh. “Rod [Barajas] said he used to try to hit me too.”

Burnett ended up running off the mound really fast in the third inning, which got a cheer from Sanchez.

With Russell Martin out over the last week, Sanchez has had more opportunities behind the plate to catch some of the big league pitchers.

“That was my first time throwing to him, so I’m going to be sure and mention that it was fun working with him,” Burnett said. “He did a great job.”

Sanchez got a bit of a workout catching Burnett today. The right-hander was throwing his curveball more often, with the pitch ending up low in the zone and in the dirt a lot. Sanchez, who excels at pitch blocking, did a great job keeping the ball in front of him.

“I was trying to get one by him,” Burnett said.

“We’ve been impressed with all facets of Tony’s defense this Spring,” Clint Hurdle said after the game. “We knew it was going to be a good opportunity with him. And then with Russell [Martin] being down, more added games, volume of innings, catching more pitchers, more front-line guys. The ball blocking ability has always been there. He’s got a strong throwing arm. He’s taking some ownership of calling the game. Worked very well with A.J. today. So it’s been a real good experience so far for him.”

One strength with Sanchez’s receiving ability is something you don’t usually think about. Burnett talked about throwing his four-seam and two-seam fastballs, and how Sanchez doesn’t need to call them separately, and doesn’t need to know which pitch is coming to catch it.

“He’s good to work with. A lot of catchers can’t do the four-seam, two-seam,” Burnett said. “They have to call each of them. And I love catchers who don’t care which one you throw, they’re ready for either one. That’s huge for a pitcher. He’s calm back there.”

Russell Martin will return behind the plate tomorrow, which should cut down Sanchez’s opportunities this Spring. The young catcher will eventually be cut from major league camp. Martin will be starting in Pittsburgh, and Michael McKenry will be the backup. Sanchez will go to Indianapolis to start everyday, and work on his hitting. Eventually Sanchez will be catching in Pittsburgh — either as a starter or a backup — which makes this playing time with the major league pitchers very valuable.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • leadoff

    Sanchez looks very good behind the plate, I watched him and Burnett in the Pen before the game, nothing got by Sanchez. Also May looks like a very good hitter, everytime I see him he seems to get a hit, but the all of a sudden deep catching the Pirates have has May quite a way down the food chain.
    Sanchez and Paulino probably have the strongest arms in the upper tier of the organization.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      May has trouble blocking balls.

      I hope Sanchez’ bat comes around. He looked good framing the ball, too. The defense is there….but is the bat? His swings didn’t look good to me.

      • joe g.

        It’s also nice to see catchers that can actually run the bases. Barajas was a good guy, but looked like n old steam truck rounding first, Martin and Sanchez are fit.

      • http://www.facebook.com/david.donahue.100 whiteAngus

        even if his bat doesnt come around, Sanchez will have a long career in the majors. maybe as a backup, or a journeyman. either way, hes a very good catcher. any offense will be a bonus.