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Bucs' Sanchez mired in slump

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Saturday, July 5, 2008

MILWAUKEE -- A hitch in Freddy Sanchez's swing has him stuck in the deepest batting funk of his career.

"Something's got to change, because I'm not getting it done," the Pirates second baseman said Friday, without divulging what has gone amiss with his mechanics. "I'm working every day and, hopefully, I can turn this thing around. I want to be out there with these guys. They're playing good baseball -- we're playing good baseball -- and I want to be a part of it."

Yesterday, Sanchez was benched for the second game in a row. Manager John Russell said Sanchez could "possibly" be back in the lineup tonight against the Milwaukee Brewers.

"I just wanted to give him a couple days to regroup a little bit," Russell said. "We'll see how it goes."

Despite hitting safely in seven of his past 10 starts, Sanchez was batting just .229. His .257 on-base percentage is the lowest among National League players with at least 200 plate appearances.

"I feel like I'm the one who's ... if I could be doing more, we'd be in a better position," Sanchez said.

Sanchez batted .232 over the first month of the season, then hit .258 in May. Over the past four-plus weeks, however, he batted .204.

"It got to where he was pressing," Russell said. "I told him to relax, work in the cage and not worry about taking what he's working on into the game. He can get better work done when he's not worrying about results."

Sanchez, the 2006 NL batting champ, missed nearly all of spring training because his recovery from shoulder surgery went much slower than expected. The shoulder continued to bother him into the regular season.

The past two weeks, Sanchez's shoulder has been relatively pain-free. While Sanchez admits his shoulder woes made him a defensive liability, he insists they did not affect his swing.

"There's no excuse for what I'm doing offensively," Sanchez said. "I've been preparing hard every day, but I'm just not getting it done.

"I know what I can do at the plate. I'm still confident. I know this thing's going to turn around. I can't worry about what's happened these past three months. I can only worry about (what happens) from here on out."

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