Sadler, Sanchez return to hill in Bucs' workouts

Recovered from Tommy John surgery, righties could be on rotation track

Sadler, Sanchez return to hill in Bucs' workouts

BRADENTON, Fla. -- For baseball-starved fans in the midst of winter, the sound of catchers' gloves popping Tuesday morning was more than welcome. For the Pirates, so was the sight of Casey Sadler and Angel Sanchez on the mound.

Sadler and Sanchez, recovered from Tommy John surgery, threw in the bullpen at Pirate City on the second day of the club's voluntary workouts. Sadler threw all fastballs in his first mound session of the year, the start of a progression that should put him on track for a "fairly normal" Spring Training.

"I'm just trying to take it easy, get the timing back, go back downhill, don't do anything crazy," Sadler said. "I was really pleased with it."

Sadler, 26, hasn't pitched in a game since June 2015. Sanchez, 27, was sidelined two months later. Both right-handers likely would have cracked the Majors at some point last year, as the Pirates used 14 starters in their search for healthy and effective arms. That is particularly true of Sadler, the Pirates' first spot-starter in 2015.

"I try not to think about it, because where I'm at now, I wouldn't be here if I didn't have the TJ. It was just getting to a point where it hurt, couldn't perform at the level where I needed to perform," Sadler said. "Having gone through that process, going through the rehab, doing all the work on mechanics and stuff like that, I'm ready to go."

Sadler and Sanchez likely will begin the season pitching out of the bullpen in the Minors due to the Pirates' existing rotation depth, general manager Neal Huntington said, but both could start in the future. The same should be true of Brandon Cumpton (Tommy John and shoulder surgeries) when he returns to the mound. All three will report to big league Spring Training as non-roster invitees.

"It would've been great to have those guys last year as we were battling injuries and battling guys struggling beyond what we anticipated," Huntington said. "It would've been great to have two guys [Sadler and Cumpton, with Cumpton making 15 Major League starts in 2013-14] who had helped us in the past. Injuries set them aside."

Around the horn

• Huntington said Gerrit Cole, who struggled through injuries last year, is having a "normal offseason" and should be "ready to go out and be Gerrit Cole."

• Asked if the club has settled on an outfield alignment for this year, Huntington said the Pirates are "still working through the process." Pittsburgh has considered moving two-time Gold Glove Award winner Starling Marte from left field to center, bumping Andrew McCutchen to a corner spot, but nothing has been decided.

• Huntington said Major League Baseball is "driving the process at this point in time" with Jung Ho Kang, who was arrested and charged with DUI in South Korea last month. The Pirates are preparing as if Kang, reportedly facing his third DUI charge since 2009, will report to Spring Training as scheduled while awaiting word from MLB regarding Kang's status.

"Once that takes place, we'll move forward from there," Huntington said.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.