When asked whether the Pittsburgh Pirates would consider adding a backup catcher in light of Chris Stewart’s recent surgery, Pirates’ General Manager Neal Huntington responded with a quick “no”.
“Never really was a choice, unless Chris was going to be out for the majority of the season,” Huntington said. “If it was a short-term loss, then Tony was going to be the guy. Absolutely have complete confidence that he’s ready to go. If it had been a longer-term, three to six months, then we would have re-addressed it. We’re completely comfortable with our depth right now, and looking forward to getting Chris back through the rehab process, get him some Spring Training type at-bats, and getting him back to Pittsburgh.”
That means that Tony Sanchez will be the backup to Russell Martin when the season begins, while Stewart will continue his rehab. The catcher, who was acquired from the New York Yankees over the off-season, talked with the media today, using a pair of crutches to get around after having minor surgery on his knee.
“My surgery went as good as can be,” Stewart said. “It was a minor issue. Didn’t have to go in and repair. Clipped a little bit out. Feels good now.”
Stewart said that he felt a few pops during the game on March 12th, but no real pain. He said the knee started getting tight later in the game, which led him to skip his final at-bat. The next morning the doctors were manipulating it, and the knee popped again, leading to more pain than he felt during the game.
“I’m hoping to be back in a couple of weeks. The prognosis is anywhere from two to six weeks,” Stewart said, noting that he’s hoping for Opening Day, but realizes that’s probably not realistic. “It depends on how quick that swelling gets out.”
That will give Tony Sanchez up to a month of backing up Russell Martin in the majors, after which he will go back down and get everyday playing time in Triple-A.
“It’s a great opportunity for him to continue to learn and grow at the major league level,” Huntington said. “And a month of backing up is a lot different than six months of backing up. He’s got a chance to continue to catch meaningful games at the major league level…but as importantly we can get Tony backed out and keep him sharp.”
Stewart said that he liked what he saw from Sanchez, and said the Pirates could still win games with Sanchez on the roster.
“He just takes care of business,” Stewart said. “He doesn’t try to do too much. He knows what he’s capable of. He’s pretty smart. He wants to learn. That’s the biggest thing, he wants to get better everyday.”