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Pirates' Sanchez recognizes opportunity

| Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, 10:39 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates first baseman Gaby Sanchez works out during the first day of spring training Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.

BRADENTON, Fla. — When the Pirates were ousted from the playoffs, Gaby Sanchez gave himself 10 days to kick back and enjoy the offseason. Before the World Series had run its course, Sanchez was back in the weight room.

“It was just me and one other guy working out for a good month before other guys started trickling in,” Sanchez said. “It was good. I wanted to get after it, get started.”

The results were noticeable Thursday, when the Pirates opened their spring training camp. Sanchez has packed on muscle, sweated off flab and is 20 pounds lighter than he was a year ago.

“Guys get to the point where they recognize there's a big opportunity for them,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “Gaby's got the opportunity to become a regular first baseman again.”

All winter, Huntington tried unsuccessfully to land a first baseman via free agency or a trade. He expects to keep searching during spring training and maybe get a bargain as players are forced off other teams' crowded rosters.

Sanchez spent the offseason drilling with a personal trainer, a woman he first worked with years ago. Back then, her workouts were too intense, and Sanchez quickly drifted away from her.

“She was a lot crazier back then, and it was more of a football-conditioning type thing,” Sanchez said with a laugh. “Since then, guys have talked to her and brought her into the baseball mentality.”

Sanchez is more focused on conditioning and exercises that help give him an explosive first step on the field. Unlike many first basemen, Sanchez prefers to play far off the line. With better quick-twitch speed, he hopes to steal an extra hit or two from batters every week.

Even as Huntington keeps looking for a first baseman, Sanchez's message is simple: Don't worry. I've got this.

“I've always felt that way,” Sanchez said. “I've always felt I could take first base and be perfect there. What (management) does is out of my hands. All I can do is work hard, train hard and show, ‘Hey, I am here. I definitely can help the team.' ”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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