Sanchez unfulfilled in return to field
Second baseman acknowledges limited shoulder strength
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Freddy Sanchez may have played second base on Wednesday night, but afterward, the All-Star infielder reiterated that he is still far from feeling ready to play the position at the level he's capable of.
"It's obviously not where I'd like it to be," said Sanchez, who played five innings in Wednesday night's 12-9 Pirates loss to the Yankees. "I kind of didn't let [the ball] go like I wanted to. Hopefully next time out I can do a little better, and hopefully it will feel a little better."
Sanchez, who had minor arthroscopic right shoulder surgery late last September, had been held out from playing second all spring after enduring a longer-than-anticipated recovery time. He spent the last month building up the shoulder by increasing both how hard and how far he threw before doctors cleared him to make his official return to the field for Wednesday night's game.
Still, while Sanchez said his shoulder was not in pain like it was a week ago, he said that it still does not feel up to par. He reported discomfort as well as a hesitancy to throw the ball with normal zip on it.
"As a player, you know what you're used to and you know where you want it to get to, and we are a little bit away from that," Sanchez said. "It just didn't feel the way I wanted it to feel, but it's the first day, too. Hopefully we can just get better from here."
Sanchez was fortunate that the game never dictated him making a throw at full strength. The first attempt he had in the field came on a third-inning line drive off the bat of Derek Jeter. He made a diving snag to record the out.
An inning later, Sanchez made his first throw of the evening on an inning-ending groundout. However, with no urgency to get the ball to first, Sanchez simply lobbed it to Adam LaRoche for the out.
Sanchez even turned an unnecessary double play in the third, showing that he is more than capable of throwing the 90 feet between second and first. The throw came after Sanchez caught a toss from shortstop Jack Wilson that ended the inning on a forceout. Thinking there was just one out and not two, however, Sanchez completed the play by throwing over to first.
"I needed to work on throwing over," Sanchez said postgame, shaking his head at the mental mistake.
But knowing that he is not physically able to play the caliber of defense that he is accustomed to has left Sanchez frustrated. It has also left him wondering just how long this recovery process -- which was supposed to have ended well before Spring Training -- will last.
"In the past, I've always wanted to come up throwing, and I don't want that part of my game to be taken away," Sanchez said. "I definitely want to be where I need to be before I get out there in the real thing."
That essentially becomes the next question for the Pirates: Will Sanchez's shoulder be well enough to allow the second baseman to take the field on March 31 in Atlanta?
"You know, I'm not concerned right now," said Sanchez, who missed the first week of the '07 regular season while recovering from a right knee sprain. "But you never know. I don't know what these next 10 or 11 days hold, but hopefully it will start feeling better."
Sanchez will not make the quick turnaround and play on Thursday. He is instead expected to stay back in Bradenton and throw some light toss before being re-evaluated to see how his shoulder has recovered.
Pirates manager John Russell said that assuming all goes well for Sanchez on Thursday, he anticipates putting the second baseman back in the lineup on Friday and then progressively stretching him out to where he can eventually stay in for the entirety of a game.
"We'll ease him back into it," Russell said. "We'll let him recover a little bit and see how he does. After that, we'll probably get him out there every day and monitor innings until he feels pretty good about it."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.