Sanchez shut down, status unclear
Second baseman will meet with orthopedist about shoulder
ST. PETERSBURG -- Freddy Sanchez has been shut down from activity this weekend and will have his right shoulder examined by noted orthopedist James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., on Monday.
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington confirmed on Saturday that Sanchez is dealing with inflammation around his right rotator cuff as the second baseman tries to work his way back to full strength after offseason surgery.
The good news is that no structural damage has been identified by the team's doctors and that the inflammation is not the result of a problem with the minor arthroscopic surgery Sanchez had at the close of last season. Huntington also added that the pain is situation-specific, meaning that Sanchez feels no pain in his shoulder except for when he throws.
However, after discomfort escalated to pain when Sanchez played in the field on Friday, the Pirates decided to seek a second opinion on the diagnosis.
"At this point we've treated [the inflammation] aggressively, but the soreness has lingered," Huntington said. "Freddy's concerned. It doesn't feel right."
The Pirates continue to hold out hope that the second baseman will be physically ready to take the field for the team's March 31 season opener. No determination as to whether Sanchez will be forced to start the season on the disabled list has been made, and nothing will be decided until after Sanchez's visit with Andrews.
Huntington said that the team should know some time late afternoon or early evening on Monday what Andrews' conclusions are.
However, Saturday's latest news, coupled with Sanchez's complaints of pain on Friday, does not bode well for Sanchez being ready to take the field in Atlanta a week from Monday.
"We want to make sure that Freddy is 100 percent healthy for as many of the games as we play as possible," Huntington said. "We don't want it to be a lingering problem. But at this point, I think it's too early to say yes or no."
If Sanchez is unable to play second base for the Pirates at the start of the regular season, the team hasn't ruled out the possibility of keeping him on the Major League roster to be used in pinch-hit situations, since Sanchez's shoulder does not bother him when he hits.
Again, though, that determination will be made depending on Sanchez's progress over the next week.
"The best answer to that question is that we would have to figure out how far out he would be from playing," Huntington said. "The most important thing for us is to get Freddy back to full health. We'll have to get a better feeling for when he'll be near 100 percent."
Huntington added that leaving Sanchez in Bradenton, Fla., for extended Spring Training will also be an option.
He had spent the first month of Spring Training methodically working his shoulder back to full strength. The minor arthroscopic surgery that he underwent at the end of last season was not expected to hinder his spring tuneup. However, the second baseman simply never felt right from the get-go.
He slowly progressed to throwing harder and from farther distances before being cleared to return to the field earlier this week.
Sanchez played the field for the first time on Wednesday and afterward reported some discomfort in his shoulder. But the outlook changed drastically when, on Friday afternoon, Sanchez came off the field complaining that the discomfort was now painful.
"I'm giving it all I have out there. It just doesn't feel right," said Sanchez after Friday's game. "I'm very concerned now. I was hoping after the first day that this day would be easier and that I would be able to work through it a little better. But that it kind of seemed like it was worse kind of gets me concerned."
Sanchez gave this report despite never having to make a throw during the game. He didn't need to in order to know something was wrong.
"Just throwing the ball around a little bit didn't feel right," Sanchez said.
It's been the second straight frustration-laced Spring Training for Sanchez, who sat out the main portion of the team's Spring Training games last year after spraining his right knee during the first week of March.
As a result, Sanchez missed the team's first five games of the '07 season after being forced to start the regular season on the DL.
Because he has been able to hit and take ground balls all spring, the only thing essentially holding Sanchez back at this point is his ability to throw. He should know in a few days how long that might be.
"I'm just to the point where I want this to go away," Sanchez said. "It's not cooperating. Hopefully, we'll find out what's going on. It's obviously very frustrating."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.