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07/12/08 7:07 PM ET

Sanchez mired in season-long slump

Bucs second baseman trying to find formula for prior success

PITTSBURGH -- Earlier this week, manager John Russell called Freddy Sanchez a frustrated hitter.

And the two-time All-Star second baseman agreed with his skipper's analysis.

"Obviously, when you're not hitting, you're frustrated," said Sanchez, who is hitting .225 this season. "When I'm not doing what I've done my whole career, you get frustrated."

Sanchez, who was held out of the Pirates' lineup on Saturday for the fourth time in 11 games, has never had this tough of a stretch in his nine seasons of professional baseball.

He finished his Minor League career with a .318 average in 406 games. Coming into this season, he had a career .310 Major League average.

The Pirates' coaches have preached all season that Sanchez will break free from the season-long slump. They said it was only a matter of time until the 2006 National League batting champion would begin to hit .300 again.

But with two games left before the All-Star break, Sanchez has still not returned to form.

"Freddy is a fierce competitor," Russell said. "Sometimes that gets in the way because he wants to do so well that it takes him out of his approach."

Added Sanchez: "Sometimes you'll hit the ball and they'll find holes. And sometimes you'll hit it where it won't find holes. It's frustrating right now because of how I've been playing."

Which caused Sanchez to proclaim this season his most difficult to date.

"The numbers pretty much speak for themselves," he said. "I'm not hitting the way I feel like I should be, but I'm a confident guy and I know that it's going to turn around at some point. I've just got to know that I've done it my whole career and I'm going to do it again. It's just a matter of sooner rather than later."

Todd Krise is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.