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Pirates notebook: Injured players work way back

| Monday, May 5, 2014, 7:57 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Jason Grilli follows through on a pitch during his last appearance against the Brewers before going on the disabled list.

Some key Pirates on the disabled list are making progress toward returning.

Pirates catcher Russell Martin, placed on the 15-day disabled list April 26 with a hamstring injury, is scheduled to resume baseball activities Friday, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said before Monday's game against the San FranciscoGiants.

Closer Jason Grilli, who was placed on the disabled list retroactive to April 21 because of a left oblique strain, threw off flat ground for a third time Monday and is advancing toward returning to mound work.

Grilli said his throwing session went well and his condition is improving. He said the team's medical staff has been cautious in handling his injury.

“The slope will wait another couple of days,” Hurdle said of Grilli's throwing timetable.

Martin has resumed strength and conditioning work.

“He's progressing. It's a couple more days before we start baseball activities,” Hurdle said of Martin. “Friday is our estimated time to start baseball activities: catching, throwing and hitting.”

Sanchez getting defensive

With Martin on the DL, Tony Sanchez has benefited from extended playing time at the major league level when he otherwise would be back at Triple-A Indianapolis in game situations.

While the Pirates continue to work with Sanchez on his throwing issues, the club believes he is improving in other areas of defensive play. When Sanchez was drafted fourth overall in 2009, he was viewed as a strong overall defensive catcher.

“He's never been in a bad place,” Hurdle said. “The game-calling with more experience, with more reps ... hitter catalogues, getting to know his pitchers better as well, ‘What's our best Plan B for this guy?'

“Sometimes it changes day-to-day. This guy might not have his slider today. The awareness. Feeling swings at pitches that are being thrown, all of it.

“He's been very receptive. He has good awareness. That game-calling, that blocking, that receiving part of it, we feel he has a natural talent for it.”

Harrison still No. 1

Utility man Josh Harrison made his third straight start in right field and atop the batting order, starting over Travis Snider and Jose Tabata. Is it a case of playing the hot hand? “Yeah, absolutely,” Hurdle said.

Left fielder Starling Marte hit fifth.

Worley to Indy?

Right-hander Vance Worley is thought to be close to joining the Indianapolis rotation in Triple-A. Worley has been working in extended spring training in Florida. The Pirates acquired Worley from the Minnesota Twins for cash March 25. Worley was the Twins' Opening Day starter in 2013 and is 19-18 with a 4.05 ERA in his big league career. He first came up with the Phillies.

“He's made good progress and could be on his way to Triple-A sooner rather than later,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said Sunday.

Huntington said Worley was not injured when the club acquired him.

“It was a matter of getting him stretched out,” Huntington said. “We wanted to get him back starting.”

Feeling a draft

With the June draft a month away, the Pirates find themselves selecting in an unusual position — drafting late in the first round at No. 24. Some talent evaluators believe the strength of the late first round will be high school pitching, which is an area of comfort for the Pirates. In three drafts from 2009-11, the Pirates spent 22 of their first 30 picks on pitchers. Seventeen were prep pitchers.

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

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