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Pirates notebook: McKenry in the mood for a little thievery

| Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, 6:27 p.m.
Christopher Horner
Pirates catcher Michael McKenry hugs fellow catcher Tony Sanchez after his bat connected with Sanchez's mask on a swinging strike during batting practice at Pirate City on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, in Bradenton, Fla. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

BRADENTON, Fla. — Backup catcher Michael McKenry wants more this season. More playing time. More hits. More wins. More ... stolen bases?

McKenry is built like an offensive lineman and doesn't have sprinter's speed. He swiped 17 bags over six seasons in the minors, but he has attempted to steal just once in 152 games with the Pirates. He was thrown out.

Still, McKenry was inspired when he noticed Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina stole 12 bases last season. It's more about smarts — picking the right time to run, catching opponents off guard — than speed, McKenry said.

“I study the game, and I see a lot of opportunities,” McKenry said. “I want to learn from Russell (Martin).”

In 2007, Martin had 21 steals. He had six last season, giving him 80 for his career.

“I think it's a way to take advantage of somebody else and get 90 feet closer to scoring a run,” McKenry said. “So I say, why not?”

• During live batting practice Sunday, McKenry's backswing smacked catcher Tony Sanchez on the helmet. Sanchez was not hurt, and he quickly popped up to give McKenry a hug. Then Sanchez looked out to pitcher Bryan Morris and said, “Nice pitch.”

• Most of the team's braintrust — GMNeal Huntington, manager Clint Hurdle, farm director Larry Broadway, assistant GM Kyle Stark, pitching coach Ray Searage, coach Bill Mazeroski and Triple-A manager Dean Treanor — gathered Sunday on Field 1 to watch LHP Jonathan Sanchez toss his first batting practice session. “Jonathan had a good day,” Hurdle said. “Free and easy, very firm velocity, threw some good breaking balls. I think we saw what we were hoping to see.” Sanchez's hitting group included Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen.

• Neither RHP A.J. Burnett nor RHP Jeff Karstens has thrown live batting practice. On the two days they could've tossed BP, they instead had bullpen sessions. “It's just the way we've worked them in, based on all their winter work,” Hurdle said. “They wanted to get a couple extra sides in before they went out against hitters. It's nothing health-related.”

— Rob Biertempfel

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