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Pirates' Sanchez rounding into form

| Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2009

Second baseman Freddy Sanchez has been long-tossing from 120 and 150 feet without problems after battling shoulder troubles for much of last season.

"Perry (Perry Hill, the team's infield instructor) has been working with Freddy on positioning and how he sets up to throw," Russell said. "It takes a lot of stress off his arm. It's made a big difference for him."

• Backup infielder Luis Cruz suffered a strained left hip flexor during the first hour of Tuesday's final workout at Pirate City. Cruz is expected to miss up to a week.

• Andy LaRoche (back) took live batting practice for the first time yesterday. He might be ready to play Thursday against the Boston Red Sox.

• The Pirates will use nine relievers today against the Philadelphia Phillies. Manager John Russell said the goal in the early batch of spring games is to see pitchers applying what they've been taught.

"First-pitch strikes, get ahead, get early out, use the changeup, things like that," Russell said. "The first outing of spring training sometimes is a little shaky, and we understand that, but the message and the process should be the same."

• Infielder Ruben Gotay, who's spent time with the Royals, Mets and Braves, signed a minor-league contract and will report to the team's minor-league camp.

• Eight Pirates players — only two from the major-league roster — were chosen for the World Baseball Classic final rosters. Infielder Ramon Vazquez and right-hander Ian Snell will play for Puerto Rico. Others selected were Dave Davidson (Canada), Ray Chang (China), Eliecer Navarro (Panama), Chi-Hung Cheng (Chinese Taipei), Josh Hill (Australia) and Paul Mildren (Australia).

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