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Pirates notebook: Injuries at catcher prompt Sanchez call-up

| Sunday, July 28, 2013, 1:15 p.m.
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The Pirates' Tony Sanchez singles in the second inning against the Mariners on Tuesday, June 25, 2013, at Safeco Field in Seattle.

MIAMI — After Saturday night's game in Indianapolis, Tony Sanchez scrolled through his smartphone and saw both of the Pirates' catchers had suffered knee injuries in Miami.

Ten hours later, Sanchez was in the Pirates' clubhouse in Miami.

“I checked my Twitter and got all the news about what the heck was going on here,” said Sanchez, who grew up a 10-minute drive from Marlins Park. “So I kind of knew what was going on. After the game, as I was showering, the manager came in and said, ‘I need you in my office.' ”

Sanchez initially joined the team through MLB's taxi squad provision. But he was added to the active roster after Travis Snider was moved to the disabled list Sunday with what the team called discomfort in his left big toe. Manager Clint Hurdle said Snider has been dealing with a toe injury for a month.

Catcher Russell Martin was back in the starting lineup Sunday after sitting out Saturday after sustaining what he described as a “tweak” to his left knee Friday night.

“He's not back to 100 percent, and that might not happen for a while,” Hurdle said. “But he's good to go.”

Backup catcher Michael McKenry jammed his knee Saturday sliding into second and was evaluated Sunday morning.

“I'm day to day,” said McKenry, who had a career-high four hits Saturday. “I'll do what's best for the team.”

Sanchez went 2 for 8 in a brief call-up earlier this season. While he has enjoyed a breakout offensive season at Triple-A, he has had issues with his throwing.

“I'm in a really good place with it,” said Sanchez, the club's first-round pick — fourth overall — in 2009. “I was trying to do too much as far as not realizing situations in the game, rushing throws, typical things that get you into a funk. It's just like hitting. You can get into a funk.”

McCutchen not in lineup

Center fielder Andrew McCutchen was not in the lineup Sunday, but Hurdle said it was simply a scheduled day off. The last game McCutchen did not start was June 23 at the Angles.

Liriano looks like '06 self

Pitcher Francisco Liriano, who will start Monday's series opener against St. Louis, hit 97 mph in his last start at Washington, the fastest he has thrown a pitch since 2010. It's the type of velocity he had prior to Tommy John surgery in '07.

“I've put work in every day. I've worked hard, and you can see the results,” Liriano said.

Said Hurdle: “Back in the day, PEDs played a large measure of (velocity spikes). Whether it's a better delivery, whatever it might be, (Liriano) works so hard, he's so focused on the four days he doesn't pitch.

“This guy is constantly running, working. … It could just be a payoff of that type of work coming back from the initial injury.”


Third baseman Pedro Alvarez is hitting more home runs this season, in large part because he's hitting more fly balls.

Alvarez's groundball-to-fly ball ratio has improved in each of the past three seasons, from 2.18 in 2011 to 1.36 last season to 1.05 this season.

“He has better knowledge of the pitchers, a better understanding of his swing: what balls he can elevate, what balls he can't,” Hurdle said. “He's probably had fewer attempts at trying to create lift on balls that are down mid-thigh and lower.”

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

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