7/31/2013 1:06 A.M. ET
Former No. 1 pick Sanchez makes catching debut
By Tom Singer and Steven Petrella / MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- The fanfare for Tony Sanchez, the Pirates' No. 12 prospect, was muted compared with the drumrolls for some of the Pirates' other No. 1 Draft choices, such as Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez and, most recently, Gerrit Cole.
But when Sanchez took his place behind a Major League plate for the first time in the nightcap of Tuesday's doubleheader, it marked the arrival of one of the pillars of organizational rebirth.
And the noise inside Sanchez's head more than made up for the relative quiet around him.
"Nerve-wracking," is how Sanchez described the first time he took the field at PNC Park. "Overwhelming. Kind of like all eyes are on you. Everybody knows I'm the guy who struggled the most. It's been a long road for me, and I'm finally back there. It felt like everybody, all 40,000 people were watching every move I made."
The Bucs' first pick in 2009, when he was the overall No. 4 selection, made his catching debut in a comfortable situation, teamed with Brandon Cumpton. It also became a spectacular situation, as Cumpton threw three-hit shutout ball for seven innings of the Bucs' doubleheader-sweeping 6-0 win over the Cardinals.
It reunited Sanchez, whose big league debut actually came last month in a pair of DH appearances during Interleague Play, with someone he often caught at Triple-A Indianapolis.
"It couldn't have been any more ideal than having someone I was familiar with," Sanchez said. "We were on the same page the entire night. No shakes. He made it easy for me. I had a lot of fun."
He also recorded his first Major League RBI, on a seventh-inning sacrifice fly, for the Pirates' final tally.
"Tony did a fine job game-planning with [Cumpton] as well," said manager Clint Hurdle, who hours earlier had admitted, "Everyone in the organization has been looking forward to this."
Speaking of looking forward, the logical timetable is for Sanchez to take over backup catching duties next season and then potentially become a regular in 2015 if Russell Martin departs as a free agent.
Pitch count will dictate relievers workload in twin bill
PITTSBURGH -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle isn't opposed to using the same reliever in both games of Tuesday's doubleheader if their pitch count stays low enough.
The Cardinals and Pirates will play a traditional doubleheader starting at 4:05 p.m. ET, with the second contest beginning 25 minutes after the conclusion of Game 1. Hurdle said if a reliever throws more than 20 pitches in the first game, he won't use that player again.
"Fifteen to 20 is a gray area," Hurdle said. "Twenty, we're done."
Hurdle said Kent Tekulve, a Pirates reliever from 1974-85 and current broadcaster, advised the pitchers not to ice their arms after Game 1. The traditional doubleheader allows them to do that as opposed to waiting several hours between games.
"Ice starts the healing process," Hurdle said. "That's why you just have them pitch, keep them hot and keep them going."
Hurdle also said righty Vic Black, who allowed a run and three hits on 29 pitches Monday night and is the organization's No. 17 prospect, would be available Tuesday. The 25-year-old has made two appearances since being called up on July 23.
"Just because he's a big, strong young man and he's done it before," Hurdle said. "We'll see how this plays out. These are always interesting."
Lambo continues power surge at Triple-A
PITTSBURGH -- Pedro Alvarez hit it on a slightly bigger stage, but he was not the only member of the Pirates' organization to clock his 27th homer of the season Monday night.
So did Andrew Lambo, who did it for Triple-A Indianapolis, seemingly on cue after a new round of questions about the Bucs' reluctance to give him a call.
The latest outcry followed the recall of outfielder Alex Presley from the Indians on Monday. But as manager Clint Hurdle explained, the transaction gave the Bucs another left-handed hitter for an 11-game stretch during which they are scheduled to face nine right-handed starters.
Like Presley, Lambo also plays the same position and is a left-handed hitter, but with considerably more thunder. Between Double-A Altoona and Indianapolis, in addition to the 27 homers, he has driven in 85 runs in 104 games. The average (.289) and slugging percentage (.576) are solid, though he is as strikeout prone (110) as typical young sluggers.
Hurdle acknowledged that Lambo, indeed, had been one of the alternatives considered in internal discussions that led to Presley's recall. Lambo, who accompanied James McDonald in the mid-2010 deal with the Dodgers for Octavio Dotel, may have been tripped up by red tape: He is not on the club's 40-man roster.
"He was a couple of years ago, when it didn't pan out very well," Hurdle said. "He's dealt with some things professionally, has worked his way back and is doing everything he can to make sure we're aware that he's playing good ball and swinging the bat. So definitely there's still interest in Lambo."
• Entering Tuesday's doubleheader, the Pirates were 13-13 against five current division leaders: Detroit (3-1), St. Louis (4-2), Oakland (1-2), Atlanta (3-4) and the Dodgers (2-4).
• Left-hander Francisco Liriano is the first Pittsburgh pitcher with at least 11 wins in his first 15 starts with the club since Earl Hamilton, who did it in 1918-19.
Liriano's 2.16 ERA would rank him fourth in the National League -- if he'd pitched enough innings to qualify. That's a pretty remarkable commentary on the efficiency of the pitcher who did not make his first start until May 11. The only four NL pitchers with more wins have worked an average of 50 more innings.
First number, last word
10: Career high of assists in a season for center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who picked up his ninth of this season in the first inning of Tuesday's first game.
"I actually caught, but I was more a retriever than a receiver. He was better at catching than I was." -- Hurdle, explaining why he has bench coach Jeff Banister mentor the club's catchers on the intricacies of the position
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. Steven Petrella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.