PITTSBURGH -- Despite losing their top three catchers to injuries in recent weeks, the Pirates remain unwavering in their stance that they will not panic and rush top catching prospect Tony Sanchez to the Majors to serve as a replacement.
The 2009 first-round Draft pick remains with Double-A Altoona, where Sanchez is still in the developmental process on both the offensive and defensive ends.
"Tony has made great progress on all fronts," general manager Neal Huntington said. "We just didn't feel like this was the right time to bring him to the Major Leagues. We've still got some things that he needs to accomplish before he goes to Triple-A."
Learning to call pitches continues to be the biggest challenge for Sanchez, who did not do so while at Boston College. On defense, he is also working to improve the accuracy of his throws and his receiving.
Offensively, the results have been mixed. He's hitting .262 in his first season at the Double-A level, but the power numbers aren't where they were a year ago. After collecting 21 extra-base hits in 59 games last season, Sanchez has just five doubles and two homers in 48 Double-A contests.
"Tony is still driving the baseball," Huntington said. "We're trying to get him to stay in the middle of the field. Sometimes young guys when their power numbers are down try to compensate by trying to yank a little bit more."
Harrison out Sunday with tight right oblique
PITTSBURGH -- Infielder Josh Harrison was unavailable on Sunday after feeling some minor right oblique tightness while running out an infield single in the seventh inning of Saturday's 3-2 win over the Mets.
Harrison said he felt a twinge in his side when he jerked out of the way to avoid an offline throw by shortstop Jose Reyes in his fourth at-bat of the game. Though Harrison stole second immediately after reaching, he was replaced in the field by Brandon Wood the next half-inning.
"It's not too bad," Harrison said of the injury. "You just don't want a couple day thing to turn into a couple weeks. It's always a little frustrating when you have a little setback like this, but Lord willing, I'll be back in there as soon as possible."
The Pirates told Harrison not to swing a bat or throw on Sunday and the club will evaluate Harrison's status daily. If the ailment becomes something that is going to keep Harrison out for more than a few days, the Bucs might be prompted to again dig into their Minor League depth for another option.
Pittsburgh is already missing starting third baseman Pedro Alvarez (right quad strain) and Steve Pearce (right calf strain). Wood will be the team's starter at the position while Harrison is sidelined. Pedro Ciriaco will serve as the backup.
"Possibly by getting him out now," manager Clint Hurdle said, "it will shorten the time he'll be away."
Since joining the club on May 30, Harrison has hit safely in nine of his 10 starts. In nine at-bats with runners in scoring position, Harrison has four hits.
Bridge to Hanrahan a work in progess
PITTSBURGH -- Though the Pirates entered Spring Training with five bullpen spots up for grabs, it was the two set pieces -- Evan Meek pitching the eighth and Joel Hanrahan taking the ball in the ninth -- that were going to provide the needed stability.
While Hanrahan has been perfect as a closer, Meek's trouble staying healthy has forced manager Clint Hurdle to mix and match in the eighth all season. Chris Resop, Daniel McCutchen and Jose Veras have all held the setup role at times, and on Saturday, Hurdle showed he's more than willing to use two pitchers to get through the eighth, if needed.
"It's a touch and feel [thing]," said Hurdle, who called on lefty Tony Watson and the right-handed Veras to do the job on Saturday. "What I usually try to feel on is how they're pitching at the time, because if a guy is pitching good, his confidence is usually at a pretty good place."
Hurdle has the luxury of making more matchup-based decisions now that he has two lefties in the 'pen. Though neither Daniel Moskos nor Watson had any big league experience before this season, Hurdle reiterated on Sunday that he won't hesitate to use either in high-leverage, late-inning situations.
"You'd like to have an experienced lefty to do it, but I'll take a lefty and we'll get him some experience," said Hurdle, who hopes to get his experienced southpaw (Joe Beimel, left elbow inflammation) back sooner rather than later. "I think both those young men out there are growing. They give you two different looks, even though they're left-handed."
Despite all the fluctuation in the bullpen, the unit is doing a fine job holding firm. The group's 3.28 ERA ranked eighth in the National League before Sunday's game and the nine blown saves is bettered by just seven NL teams. Only three relievers from the team's Opening Day roster remain in Pittsburgh's 'pen.
Jones encouraged by discussion with Hurdle
PITTSBURGH -- Perhaps it was just a coincidence, but in his first start since a heart-to-heart meeting with manager Clint Hurdle, Garrett Jones had one of his more encouraging performances in recent weeks.
Jones finished 2-for-4 with a big RBI double in Saturday's one-run win over the Mets after sitting on the bench the previous four games. During that stretch, Hurdle pulled Jones aside for a personal discussion in which the two talked about swing mechanics and Jones' mental approach, among other things.
"He said some good things," Jones said. "I had some questions. I feel like he's behind me and wants everyone to do well. At the same time, he speaks the truth and lets you know what he thinks. He's not going to beat around the bush. It was a good talk. I'm just looking forward to hitting my way back into the lineup and being in there on a regular basis."
Hurdle's assessment of the talk was similar.
"We're obviously a much better offense when Garrett can get rolling and get involved in the offense," he said. "I have confidence in him. I believe he has confidence in himself. I just want him to go up there with bad intentions and just hitting the ball hard where it's pitched."
Where Jones hit the ball on Saturday was a sign that the right fielder might slowly be regaining his swing. Three of the four balls he put in play were up the middle or to the left side. When Jones has been struggling, it's often because he is pulling everything toward right field.
Even with Saturday's pair of hits, Jones has just 11 hits in 59 at-bats dating back to May 11.
One day after manager Clint Hurdle noted that clubs are asking a big price in the Pirates' efforts to find a catcher, general manager Neal Huntington spoke on the subject. "We're working through our options," Huntington said. "The wrong decision made quickly is still the wrong decision, so we're trying to make sure we put ourselves in the best situation to make the best decision for us as an organization. We know we're probably going to have to overpay at the end of the day, but it's just how much."
The Bucs have already used five catchers this season, the most since the team used that many in 2007. The last time Pittsburgh used six different catchers was in 1988, when Mike LaValliere, Junior Ortiz, Tom Prince, Ruben Rodriguez, Mike Diaz and Dave Hostetler all played behind the plate.
Jeff Johnson, pitching coach with low Class A West Virginia, has left the Power due to a personal issue and has been replaced by Dave Turgeon, who was slated to be the manager for short-season Class A State College this season. Every indication is that leave this is temporary, and the Pirates are hopeful that Johnson will eventually return to the organization. Taking Turgeon's place as manager in State College will be Kimera Bartee, who was the organization's outfield/baserunning coordinator.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.