Notes: Sanchez ready to test knee

Notes: Sanchez ready to test injured knee

BRADENTON, Fla. -- If all goes well, Freddy Sanchez will play Wednesday for the first time in more than three weeks.

After receiving a second opinion he called "very encouraging" on his twisted right knee, the National League batting champion is again champing at the bit to get back in the game, and said he planned to head to Minor League camp on Wednesday to take his first live-game at-bats since March 6.

"[I learned the injury] can't get worse just by doing the everyday thing, it would take a lot of force," Sanchez said. "In that case, I'm like, heck, I'll go out there and go as hard as I can. If I have to play with a little bit of pain and discomfort, so be it as long as I know it's not going to get any worse."

Sanchez, 29, has not played in a game since injuring his knee while turning a double play on March 6, and has taken just seven at-bats overall during the spring season.

As Grapefruit League play winds down, there are decisions to be made concerning the starting second baseman, the most pressing being whether to place him on the disabled list or wait to see if he's fit for Opening Day.

"We're coming down to crunch time and I need to push it a little more," Sanchez said. "Maybe I can open up the season, maybe I can't. If I push it now and get healthy by the season, I'll probably need some at-bats. ... My goal is to be ready."

Teams are allowed to place players on the disabled list retroactive nine days from the end of Spring Training, meaning Sanchez may only have to miss the first series in Houston and be ready to join the Pirates in Cincinnati. In the meantime, he may stay in Bradenton for extended Spring Training to snag the extra at-bats that have so far eluded him.

"It's been very frustrating; I'd be lying if I said it wasn't," he said. "It's disheartening a little bit, knowing that I worked as hard as I can in the offseason to try to repeat [my success]. This is kind of a little setback, but I'm going to work my [tail] off to get back as quickly as possible and hopefully not miss too much time."

Roster cuts: Josh Sharpless appeared to be upset after being reassigned Friday, but not all that surprised. The 26-year-old reliever appeared in 14 games for the Pirates last season and held a 1.50 ERA over 12 innings, but he has struggled with command on his fastball throughout the spring. For that reason, the righty will begin the season at Triple-A Indianapolis.

"I kind of felt it was coming," Sharpless said. "I've walked some people in the past in the Minor Leagues, but I've always had a pretty good understanding of where the ball was going. Here, I've felt like I had no idea where my fastball was going."

Sharpless had a respectable 2.08 ERA in 8 2/3 innings pitched, and two saves, but he walked seven.

General manager Dave Littlefield was quick to remind, however, that cuts are being made simply for the Opening Day roster, and that performance has a bit to do with dictating where a player will be later in the year.

"We have very high hopes for him for the future," Littlefield said. "He's done an excellent job throughout the Minor Leagues, and did a nice job coming up to [the] big-league team last year. He just needs to finish off some things, and mainly just throw more strikes. But we're very, very encouraged about the future of Josh Sharpless with the Pittsburgh Pirates."

In other transactions, catcher Einar Diaz was reassigned to Minor League camp, as was outfielder Michael Ryan. The big-league camp now stands at 32 players: 16 pitchers, three catchers, eight infielders and five outfielders.

Kuwata's relief: Tests on pitcher Masumi Kuwata's right ankle came back negative for a break on Tuesday, although the Japanese righty was still considerably hobbled, in a boot brace and on crutches.

Doctors said Kuwata, 38, will be out 4-6 weeks with the grade 3 high-ankle sprain he suffered Monday after stepping on home plate umpire Wally Bell's foot in an attempt to back up third base on a play. Kuwata lay face-down on the field for several minutes before he was carted off and taken to Manatee Memorial Hospital for evaluation. He was expected to make the roster at Indianapolis, and it is unknown how this setback will affect that.

Paulino's play: Ronny Paulino is evolving into the dangerous type of hitter pitchers like to avoid, and he put a stamp on his resume Tuesday with a two-run home run in the first inning of Pittsburgh's 3-2 win over Boston. The catcher is now batting .500 (23-for-46) with four homers, two doubles, a triple and a team-high 15 RBIs.

"The batting average is immaterial," Pirates manager Jim Tracy said. "The approach to the at-bats, the type of contact he's making -- that's what grabs hold of your attention.

"The adjustments the guy makes from pitch to pitch or pitcher to pitcher are something else that's very noteworthy. He's got a much better understanding and more confidence in himself, as far as location of the pitch. The guy's hitting [pitches in] different areas of the plate. We've seen him crush some balls this spring that last year would have been lined toward right-center field because of him wanting to stay on the ball and constantly fighting to get inside of it."

Up next: Left-hander Zach Duke will get the ball for the Pirates in his sixth and final spring warm-up as Pittsburgh faces Cincinnati on the road at 1:05 p.m. ET. The Reds will send right-hander Aaron Harang to the mound.

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