"Some [heal] faster, some [heal] slower, but there's no set date as to when one starts and one stops."
Sanchez, 29, has been sidelined since twisting the knee while turning a double play on March 6 against Philadelphia. Updates thus far have been frequent and positive, and indicative that Sanchez was progressing toward a return by Opening Day. The first hint of trouble came on Sunday, when Littlefield discussed sending Sanchez to the disabled list as one of the team's options.
"We'll base our decision on Freddy's feedback and how he's doing," Littlefield said. "We have up until Sunday, when the rosters are due, to backdate the DL, so we'll make the decision by then."
Littlefield added that Sanchez was scheduled to return to camp later Monday.
The second baseman played in just three Grapefruit League games this preseason prior to being injured, and hit .143 (1-for-7). He also walked once.
With new acquisition Adam LaRoche hitting cleanup behind him, Sanchez (.344, 85 RBIs in 2006) was expected to bolster a strengthened Pirates lineup that included high-average/RBI names such as left fielder Jason Bay (.286, 109) and LaRoche (.285, 90).
Should Sanchez be kept out of the lineup, the Pirates can take comfort on defense by inserting Jose Castillo, who's started at second for the last three years. Still, Littlefield said, it's an awfully big hole to fill.
"It's an area of depth in general that we're in better shape than in years past, but this guy won the National League batting title and had 53 doubles," said Littlefield, of Sanchez. "He's projected to bat third in our lineup. That's part of your plans, but you have to be prepared for backups because of injuries."
Sanchez began last season as a reserve player but quickly worked his way into everyday play at third base with his consistent bat and solid defense. He finished five points ahead of Florida's Miguel Cabrera to capture the first NL batting title by a Pirate since 1983, when Bill Madlock had the honor. At .344, Sanchez was three points shy of Minnesota's Joe Mauer, who led all of baseball.
Littlefield said at this point, Sanchez remains day to day.
"[Andrews'] evaluation was the same that we had," Littlefield said. "He'll continue to work back to play, and it's kind of a go-as-he-feels type of scenario. The better he feels, the quicker he'll get out there."