Tony Sanchez Pirates

Pirates Notebook: Tony Sanchez Acknowledges “Long Road” to Majors

Tony Sanchez Matt Holliday

Tony Sanchez gets his 2nd MLB start at catcher Thursday, and it will certainly be less nerve-wracking than the first. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

It was not his Major League debut, but it might have been better.

Tony Sanchez made his first Pirates start at catcher in Game 2 of Tuesday’s doubleheader against the St. Louis Cardinals, and it was a whirlwind. His favorite catcher of the last decade, St. Louis’ Yadier Molina, wished him good luck in the bullpen. He jumped out of the dugout to cheers and 40,000 sets of eyeballs.

“Nerve-racking. Overwhelming,” Sanchez said about that moment. “Kind of like all eyes are on you, just because everybody knows I’m the guy who has struggled the most. This has been a long road for me.”

Four summers after the Pirates drafted Sanchez in the 1st round, everyone was watching the 25-year-old catcher direct a 6-0 shutout of the Cardinals to keep 1st place in the National League Central division. Now he is back behind the plate again Thursday night, spelling Russell Martin’s day off to nurse a sore knee, to finish off a five-game sweep of the Cards.

“I know Tony doesn’t take anything for granted,” Jeff Locke, former minor league teammate of Sanchez, said. “He’s like a little kid up here. He’s excited every day… He can’t wait to be out there.”

“I’ve Been to the Bottom”

But Locke admits Sanchez has had to face plenty of criticism. Originally expected to take the fast lane to the Majors, Sanchez had to play 296 games between Double-A and Triple-A over the last three years before his first MLB start at catcher.

Sanchez often felt his Major-League chance would never arrive.

“Absolutely. I’m not gonna lie,” Sanchez said. “I thought when I was hitting .240 in Double-A my second year,  it’s not gonna work out… I’ve been to the bottom of the barrel as far as adversity goes.”

So how did Sanchez push through injuries and a mediocre 2011 season to join the Pirates in the thick of a pennant race? How did the former No. 4 overall pick stay positive?

“You tell yourself you were picked at that spot for a reason,” Sanchez said.

Here he is now, the Pirates catcher of the future. His face lights up talking about catching warmup pitches from childhood idol A.J. Burnett, about hugging bench coach Jeff Banister (who Sanchez says has helped him from the beginning), about playing in front of Pittsburgh fans yelling his Twitter handle “Tony Montana” at him.

“I’m such an attention guy. I love attention,” Sanchez said. “It’s hard for me not to look back and smile.”

Bonus Notes!

  • Pirates manager Clint Hurdle had no issue with his general manager maintaining the status quo at Wednesday’s trade deadline instead of overpaying for a Major League hitter. “The safety net is the existing players that are out there… That’s why you don’t have to be insane.”

    Hurdle brought up Gaby Sanchez, Garrett Jones, Neil Walker, Russell Martin, Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte as players who could start hitting better over the final two months.

    “They just think there’s more success for them on the offensive side with just a little bit more consistency,” Hurdle said.

    The manager also shared a funny story about meeting a talkative fan, and Bucs Dugout’s David Manel provides the details.

  • Wandy Rodriguez (left forearm tightness) threw from 100 feet on flat ground Wednesday, continuing his long-toss program before he takes his injury recovery to the mound.
  • The Pirates’ have MLB’s second-best home record at 36-18, bested only by the Atlanta Braves’ 37-15 home mark. But the Pirates also have the best record in all baseball games, so…

Share This Article

James Santelli

James covers the Pirates beat for Pirates Prospects. He is a Broadcast Journalism student at USC and has written for such outlets as, Pittsburgh Magazine and the official websites of the Los Angeles Clippers and Pittsburgh Penguins. James previously covered the Pirates for Pittsburgh Sports Report. He also broadcasts play-by-play for the USC Trojans baseball team and was awarded the 2013 Chick Hearn Memorial Scholarship and Allan Malamud Scholarship. James dispenses puns at his Twitter account (@JamesSantelli) where he promises to write in first-person. Google

Pirates Notebook: Doubleheader Presents Important Opportunity for NL Central

Next Story »

Pirates Notebook: Jared Hughes Rides Again

  • buccotime57

    I have liked sanchez since i watched him suit up for the spikes back in 09 right after he signed, I have seen him play at every level except high A. If not for two broken jaws he would have been here much sooner, I am so glad he has finally gotten his chance.I always said he reminded me of Russel martin well before he was a pirate. I think he will be a great catcher for the next few years and can someday mentor a young mcguire.

Latest Analysis

  • (Photo credit: David Hague)

    Willy Garcia Has Some of the Best Power in the System, But One Thing Holds Him Back

    8 hours ago

    Almost exactly three years ago today, I wrote an article outlining some of the potential international breakout hitters in the lower levels. The article started out by ...

    Read More
  • Jung-ho Kang signing autographs.

    Q&A: Will Jung-ho Kang’s Presence Create Issues in the Pirates Dugout?

    12 hours ago

    Every Friday we run a Q&A with questions that I’ve received throughout the week. You can submit your questions all week by using the Q&A form on the ...

    Read More
  • Austin Meadows

    Austin Meadows Lowered His Hand Position to Add More Power

    1 day ago

    Ever since he was drafted, Austin Meadows was regarded as a prospect with power that you could dream about. He drew comps to Jay Bruce in the ...

    Read More
  • Tarpley Brault

    Will the Snider Trade Result in the Pirates Finally Having a Left-Handed Starting Prospect?

    2 days ago

    Despite adding plenty of pitching through the draft over the last several years, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been short on the amount of quality left-handed pitching in their ...

    Read More
  • Connor Joe 2

    Meet Connor Joe: The First Round Pick You Know Nothing About

    2 days ago

    This site is now in its seventh year of existence. For the last four years, I’ve been doing this full-time, allowing me to see every affiliate throughout the year, along ...

    Read More
  • (Photo Credit: David Hague)

    What is the Difference Between Mel Rojas and Keon Broxton?

    3 days ago

    Mel Rojas Jr. was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the third round of the 2010 MLB draft. The son of the former big league closer had ...

    Read More
  • Browse More Articles