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03/28/08 4:15 PM ET

Sanchez on track for opener

Barring setback, second baseman should be on 25-man roster

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Freddy Sanchez took the field in a Pirates Minor League game Friday, marking the second straight day that the All-Star second baseman has done so.

He played five innings in a Triple-A game against Louisville, fielding four ground balls and throwing out four runners. None of Sanchez's throws had to be made at full effort.

The workout was not intended to be strenuous, and all reports afterward were that the irritation in Sanchez's right rotator cuff has been reduced in recent days. Prior to Friday's game, Sanchez also went through a throwing program without reporting notable discomfort.

The true test for Sanchez will come Saturday when he has a more intense and pointed workout. Up to this point, Sanchez has not seen how his arm would respond when making more difficult plays, like taking cutoff throws from the outfield and throwing home, or taking a feed and throwing over to first to complete a double play.

How Sanchez feels after his workout Saturday will likely go a long way in determining whether he will be able to take the field with his teammates Monday in Atlanta. Regardless, it seems all but set that Sanchez will be on the Opening Day roster.

"As we sit here [Friday], we expect Freddy to be on the plane [Saturday] heading to Atlanta and being in the lineup," Huntington said.

With Sanchez able to hit pain-free -- even if he is not ready to play the field every day -- he will more than likely still be kept as a pinch-hitter. In Friday's game, Sanchez batted in each of the first five innings, going 2-for-5 with two doubles.

While the Pirates anticipate taking Sanchez to Atlanta on Saturday evening with the rest of the team, Huntington did leave open the possibility of Sanchez staying behind in Bradenton until Sunday if he wants to get a few more at-bats. Sanchez would then fly north to join the team.

"We're working off Freddy," Huntington added. "As we sit here right now, he should be good to go on Monday."

By not playing Sanchez in any of the team's Major League Spring Training games, the Pirates are, however, covering themselves just in case Sanchez were to suffer another setback. Since Sanchez has not played with the big league club in a week, if a 15-day disabled list stint is needed, it could be backdated so that Sanchez would be able to come off as early as April 5.

But again, at this point, Sanchez is not expected to need to start the season on the DL.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.