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Pirates notebook: Reserve catcher Stewart sidelined after knee surgery

| Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 10:00 p.m.

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Pirates will be without backup catcher Chris Stewart for at least the first month of the season.

Stewart underwent arthroscopic surgery Wednesday to have the meniscus in his right knee repaired by Dr. James Andrews. Stewart injured the knee March 12 against the Twins and has not played in a game since. The Pirates estimated Stewart's recovery time will be between four and six weeks.

The Pirates acquired Stewart this offseason for his defense. Stewart is one of the better pitch framers in baseball. He has caught 33 percent of base stealers during his seven-year career.

The Pirates can either turn backup catcher duties over to Tony Sanchez, or go back into the trade market for a veteran catcher.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said earlier this week he was comfortable with Sanchez as his reserve catcher.

“It's too early to tell,” said Hurdle of the club's plans for a backup catcher. “I've never heard a doctor say a surgery wasn't successful. … We want to see (Stewart), see what he's capable of doing. I am comfortable having Tony on the club.”

Wandy's strong spring

Perhaps the biggest development this spring for the Pirates is the continued good health of Wandy Rodriguez.

The left-hander pitched four innings for the first time this spring Wednesday night in a 4-2 victory over the Red Sox. Rodriguez allowed four hits, one run, walked one and struck out two. He again threw without pain after missing the last four months of 2013 with what he described as left elbow tendinitis.

“I feel good,” Rodriguez said. “I feel nothing bad right now. … (The injury) is gone.”

Rodriguez showed the ability to locate his fastball in locking up Red Sox right fielder Shane Victorino with the pitch for a called strike three in the first inning. He struck out David Ortiz swinging with an elevated fastball in the second inning.

Rodriguez caught a Victorino line drive to end the third inning, but the ball deflected off his thigh and forearm and left him with a bruise on his left forearm. Rodriguez returned to pitch the fourth inning and said he was OK.

Rodriguez was between 88-90 mph with his fastball, Hurdle said.

“He's starting to let it go,” Hurdle said. “There's no reservation. I'm real pleased with the direction he's headed.”

Reviews are in

The Pirates made their first replay challenge Wednesday. In the seventh inning, Hurdle challenged whether Jaff Decker had been tagged out when Decker slid past second base trying to advance when Michael Martinez was caught in a rundown. The play stood as called on the field. Hurdle said the Pirates had an employee reviewing the play in the TV television production truck with a walkie-talkie.

In the spotlight

Pirates prospect Josh Bell entered Wednesday's game in right field in the eighth against the Red Sox. Two springs ago, another Pirates prospect, Gregory Polanco, also got his first taste of a Grapefruit League spring training game in the eighth inning of a game at Fort Myers against the Red Sox.

Hurdle likes to place certain prospects into higher-profile spring training games. Bell flied out to the warning track in his only at-bat.

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

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