Catcher Sanchez earns respect of Pirates' staff
SEATTLE — Jeff Locke was not surprised a few days ago to turn around and see Tony Sanchez standing in the Pirates' clubhouse.
“He's been everywhere that I've been — Lynchburg, Bradenton, Altoona, Indianapolis,” Locke said, ticking off stops in the minor league system. “He's always been there for me as a catcher. What else can a pitcher ask for?”
Locke isn't the only pitcher with whom Sanchez has worked closely in the minors. He has caught games — not merely spring training tuneups — for nine of the 12 pitchers on the active roster, including seven this season at Triple-A Indianapolis. The only exceptions are relievers Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon and Tony Watson.
Sanchez got to catch Charlie Morton, Francisco Liriano and Jeanmar Gomez during injury rehab outings.
That hands-on experience will pay dividends once Sanchez begins catching games at the major league level.
“Anytime you have a chance to work with somebody, no matter what it is, whether they're playing behind you (on the field) or you're throwing to them, it's a positive thing,” Morton said. “But it's especially true for a pitcher and a catcher. That's a crucial relationship. You want to be able to trust who's back there and know that he has as good of an idea about what's going on as you do. It's a huge plus.”
Morton was traded to the Pirates in 2009, the year the Pirates drafted Sanchez in the first round. They never played together until this year, when Morton made three starts for Indy while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.
Coming back from reconstructive elbow surgery is a physical and mental grind. Morton appreciated the honest, unbiased feedback he got from Sanchez, who gauged every pitch.
“He wasn't back there thinking, ‘Wow, this is better than it was before' or ‘This isn't as good as it was before.' It's really kind of a clean slate,” Morton said. “When I was throwing to him, I didn't feel like there was any sort of expectation. It was just professional: ‘What you've got today is what you've got, and we're going to work with that.' I think that's great.”
When Sanchez arrived at the clubhouse last week in Anaheim, Morton greeted him at the door with a hug and carried his bags to his locker.
“I was like, ‘No, Charlie. Please don't do that,' ” Sanchez said, laughing.
The next-to-last game Sanchez caught before his call-up was Gomez's rehab start June 19.
“It was like we were on the same page the entire time,” Sanchez said. “He didn't shake me off once, and we went five innings with no hits. I was proud of that. Catching Charlie, Francisco, Gomez, (Brandon) Cumpton, (Gerrit) Cole ... I know a lot of these guys. It's only going to help me.”
It helps the pitchers, too. Locke said building a strong rapport with Sanchez in the minors enabled him to fine-tune his skills.
“You can't put a ball past him,” Locke said. “Last year, when he was catching, I gained a lot of confidence throwing breaking pitches in the dirt in situations when there was a man on second or even third, less than two outs, stuff like that. If you don't have 100 percent confidence and trust in that guy (catching), there might be a pitch you shy away from a little bit or you might try to be too perfect and hang it. I never had to worry about that with Tony. Just drop that thing on the plate, and he'll chest it up.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.