Sanchez ready to play the field

Sanchez ready to play the field

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates have been reiterating for a while now that Freddy Sanchez is nearing his return to the field. On Sunday, manager John Russell finally provided a tentative day: Tuesday.

"We've got him slated to play second base in the next few days -- hopefully Tuesday," Russell said. "He had another good workout today, and if everything is going how it is and he feels good, then we'll be able to get him in there Tuesday, Wednesday at the latest."

The news came as somewhat of a surprise to the All-Star second baseman, who earlier on Sunday had expressed concern that he wouldn't be ready for a return to the field early this week. Sanchez admitted to still feeling some discomfort in his right shoulder, but he did add that the discomfort had lessened in recent days.

Sanchez threw at a distance of between 105-120 feet on Sunday, and he estimated his maximum throwing effort to be at about 70 percent.

Other than the team's medical staff, no one is in a better position to determine when Sanchez is ready than Russell, who was on the field catching throws from Sanchez during infield practice prior to Sunday's game against the Red Sox. Sanchez fielded ground balls and threw to Russell, who was at first base.

"He had plenty on it," Russell reported. "Today was a good thing for him. He had plenty on the ball. I'd say he's very close."

Russell said that Sanchez's first action would come in a Grapefruit League game and not in one of the organization's Minor League games. If Sanchez does indeed play on Tuesday, it would be against the Reds in Sarasota, Fla. He will begin to build up his arm strength by playing just a few innings of what will be his first game in the field since Sept. 25.

"We'll progress him into it where we feel like he's ready for the season," Russell said.

What's been arguably most frustrating for Sanchez, though, is that his recovery process wasn't supposed to take this long to begin with. At least, that was the initial impression.

Sanchez had minor arthroscopic surgery on Sept. 28 to clean up the area around his right rotator cuff, and he was told that he would be fully functional in six to eight weeks. His offseason workout plan was not supposed to be dramatically affected, and Sanchez was expected to be ready for all activity at the onset of Spring Training.

Unfortunately, for Sanchez, that hasn't been the case.

"I wasn't expecting to be out this long," the two-time All-Star said. "In that regard, yeah, it's a little disappointing that I can't be out there with these guys and ready to go. It's frustrating. Just hopefully, I won't have to start this year on the [disabled list]."

General manager Neal Huntington said on Saturday that the team has not begun to consider the possibility of Sanchez not being ready to go on Opening Day.

"At this time," Huntington said, "we think there is plenty of time in getting him ready for the season."

Now, knowing that Sanchez will have nearly two weeks to practice in the field, a trip to the DL seems unlikely barring any unforeseen setbacks. And even though Sanchez has said that he'd be fine with starting the regular-season opener, he did admit to still not having the arm strength he feels that he needs.

"I don't feel like it's where it should be," Sanchez said after Sunday's game. "As long as I can lace it up for a few days, I'll be fine."

Sanchez has been fortunate in that despite the setback with his shoulder, he's been able to still get an adequate number of at-bats because of the use of a designated hitter in Spring Training games. The second baseman has been the team's DH in nine games this spring.

After going 2-for-4 with a bases-clearing double on Sunday, Sanchez is 13-for-35 with eight RBIs in nine games.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.