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Pirates notebook: Rookie Angel Sanchez joins bullpen

| Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017, 3:36 p.m.

When right-handed reliever Angel Sanchez found out late Tuesday night he was heading to the majors for the first time to join the Pirates, it triggered a series of very short conversations.

The first was with Triple-A Indianapolis manager Andy Barkett, who phoned Sanchez with the news.

“I thought he might be kidding me,” Sanchez said. “I was so surprised, I had nothing to say.”

Sanchez next called his wife and his aunt in the Dominican Republic.

“At first, I couldn't talk because of the emotion of the moment,” Sanchez said. “I was talking (small) talk like, ‘Hey, I'm going to the big leagues.' Nothing else would come out of my mouth.”

Sanchez joined the Pirates on Wednesday to fill a multi-inning role in the bullpen. Righty Edgar Santana was optioned back to Indy.

In 39 outings with Indy, Sanchez went 3-5 with one save and a 3.74 ERA. This is his first full season as a relief pitcher.

“He's gotten better as the year's gone on,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “The arm's live. The stuff (and) the pitch skills are in a good place. It's a fresh arm and an arm that can give us some volume.

“He's a guy we thought of a lot two years ago. He's dealt with his own set of adversity and gotten back. We feel this is a good opportunity to take a look at him.”

Growing up in the Dominican Republic, Sanchez was raised by his aunt.

“I (consider) her like a mom,” he said.

Sanchez credits his late grandmother Rosa for keeping him focused on reaching the big leagues.

“I play for my grandma,” Sanchez said. “She believed in me, and she always told me, ‘If you like to play baseball, just go play. If you don't like school, don't leave school because it will teach you things that will last forever.' I told her I was going to make it for her. I'm dedicating today to her, because she is the reason I am here.”

Sanchez, 27, was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2010 and three years later was traded to the Miami Marlins.

The Pirates claimed him off waivers from the Chicago White Sox in July 2014. He missed the entire 2016 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Apologies to Andy

With less than two weeks left in the season, Indianapolis (70-58) is leading the International League West. It hasn't been easy, though, with the Pirates raiding Indy's bullpen lately for fresh arms.

How thin is Indy's roster? On Sunday, catcher John Bormann pitched the final two innings of a 4-3 loss against Syracuse.

That led Hurdle to place a call to Barkett.

“I thanked him for their efforts,” Hurdle said. “And I apologized. All we keep doing is grabbing guys, and they keep figuring things out. They've found ways to win games, so I'm proud of their efforts. The coaching staff down there is doing a great job, and the players continue to show up.”

Planet of the aches

Francisco Cervelli (left wrist inflammation) hit on the field and has been catching bullpen sessions without problem.

“He continues to check off boxes, preparing to be game-ready,” head athletic trainer Todd Tomczyk said.

Cervelli is eligible to come off the disabled list Thursday.

Tomczyk remains optimistic Gregory Polanco (strained left hamstring) will be able to play before the end of the season. Polanco is able to throw and hit on the field and has been running in the exercise pool.

George Kontos (strained right groin) has been shut down for a couple of days. He's expected to resume throwing Friday. Tests showed he has a low-grade sprain, and he likely will be activated Aug. 30.

Joaquin Benoit (left knee inflammation) is battling the same injury that put him on the DL in June. He'll be reevaluated Friday.

Wade LeBlanc (strained left quad) threw a bullpen Wednesday. He's eligible to be activated Monday.

Austin Meadows (oblique tightness) has resumed full baseball activities at Indianapolis.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

Pirates pitcher Angel Sanchez joins the team during practice before a game against the Dodgers Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Angel Sanchez joins the team during practice before a game against the Dodgers Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017, at PNC Park.
Pirates pitcher Angel Sanchez pitches against the Dominican Republic team on March 8, 2017, at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Angel Sanchez pitches against the Dominican Republic team on March 8, 2017, at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Fla.
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