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Sanchez's status at second base clouded by injury

Monday, February 23, 2004

He may not be able to open the season because of a right ankle injury.
BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) -- Freddy Sanchez, a highly regarded infielder expected to contend for the Pittsburgh Pirates' second base job this spring, is questionable to open the season and may not play until May because of a right ankle injury.
While Pirates pitchers, catchers and injured position players began spring workouts this weekend, Sanchez has been limited to rehabilitating his injury in the training and weight rooms.
Sanchez had surgery to remove a bone spur Nov. 4, but he has been bothered by scar tissue and hasn't been cleared by doctors to run, hit or take ground balls.
"When I had surgery, I was told it could take four to six months," Sanchez said. "Everything is up in the air now, but the specialists are guessing it might not be healed until May."
Acquired from Boston
The 26-year-old Sanchez, a .323 hitter in four minor-league seasons, was acquired from Boston on July 31 when the Pirates traded pitcher Jeff Suppan to the Red Sox. Sanchez played one game at Class AAA Nashville before revealing the extent of an ankle injury he suffered a few days before the trade.
The Pirates thought Sanchez's injury might heal through rest and rehabilitation, but he was forced to undergo surgery three months later.
"It's the most disappointing thing I've had to go through in my career," he said. "I had a chance to compete for a job and then this happens."
The Pirates didn't re-sign either Pokey Reese or Jeff Reboulet, opting to go with either Sanchez or another unproven second baseman, Bobby Hill, who was acquired from the Chicago Cubs in August.
What looked like the biggest competition of spring training for the Pirates might turn into a contest of attrition.
Hill is recovering
Hill is recovering from back problems that shortened his 2003 season. If he is unable to win the job, the Pirates could turn to utility players Abraham Nunez and Rob Mackowiak.
"I don't know how it's going to play out," Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said. "We'll see how [Sanchez] is as we progress. If he's not able to be out there, he can't compete for the job. But we have people capable of going out there and doing the job."
Sanchez doesn't know when he'll receive clearance to return to the practice field, but he isn't discounting the possibility of being ready for the season opener April 5.
"I might be close enough to where I can kick this thing and get out there," he said.
McClendon said it's too early to make any predictions on Sanchez's health.
Non-roster catcher Ronny Paulino, the only player not on hand for the first workout Saturday, arrived in camp and worked out Sunday. ... Left fielder Jason Bay (right shoulder surgery) was scheduled to be re-examined Saturday by team doctors. Bay is hoping to begin hitting this week. ... Half of the pitchers in camp were timed in a long-distance run that encompassed two laps around the practice fields. Ian Snell won his group with a time of 6 minutes, 25 seconds. Dave Williams, Bobby Bradley, Joe Beimel and Mike Johnston each finished in seven minutes or less. Juan Acevedo was the last to complete the race, finishing past the 10-minute mark.
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