Catcher stronger, ready for new challenges in 2012
By Jim Lane / Altoona Curve | April 22, 2012 12:51 PM ET
CURVE, Pa. - Tony Sanchez is bigger and stronger, and the Curve are hoping that means bigger and better things for the young catcher this season.
A 2009 first-round pick (fourth overall) out of Boston College, Sanchez has been anointed as the Pirates' catcher of the future, but his performance with the Curve in 2011 left a lot to be desired.
After batting only .241 in 118 games and committing 18 errors, the Miami native knew a change was needed.
"One of the main things I had to work on in the offseason was my weight," Sanchez said recently at Peoples Natural Gas Field, "to make sure I had my body where it should be to allow myself to play a full season. Last year, I struggled with keeping weight on and, in turn, that made it difficult for me to hit balls the way I should."
So Sanchez added about 15 pounds (he now weighs about 225) to his 6-foot frame.
"I focused on my body the whole offseason," he said. "I concentrated on what I was doing in the gym and what I was eating. I tried to continue that into spring training."
Hitting coach Ryan Long likes what he's seen from Sanchez at the plate.
"Tony's been good," Long said. "He's matured his approach. If he'll stay within his approach and trust his strengths, he'll be fine. He does a nice job of simplifying and I think he's right where he needs to be."
Noted as an outstanding defensive catcher, Sanchez was not happy with that part of his game a year ago.
"It was more of trying to do too much, and trying to control the game," he said. "I was being a little aggressive with what I was doing. This year, in spring training, I laid back a little and let the game come to me. I didn't make such aggressive throws, and tried to be smart about things."
He did throw out two base runners in a big league exhibition game, which brought a positive reaction from Pirate manager Clint Hurdle.
"Hurdle blew me up a little bit, and gave me some ink," Sanchez said, laughing. "That's what I can do. I think I showed my potential of how I can be back there. Now, it's matter of bringing it into the season."
Although he played all of 2011 with the Curve, the Pirates are hoping Sanchez will be ready to make the jump to Triple-A in the near future.
Sanchez isn't looking too far ahead, though.
"I didn't expect to get promoted to start the season," he said. "You're not going to get promoted when you hit .240 in Double-A. I'm looking to force their hand this year by getting the job done at the plate and behind the plate.
"I won't push," he said. "I'll just play the game and hopefully the work I put in during the offseason and spring training will pay off. I'll just go out and have fun."
Sanchez's off-the-field problems were well documented after he suffered a broken jaw in a bar room fight during the off season.
"I was in the wrong place at the wrong time," he said. "Although I did try to walk away, they followed me and things happened. Nobody is more disappointed than me that I put myself in that position.
"There's not much I can do but move on."
Curve manager P.J. Forbes is expecting a better season all around from Sanchez.
"I expect him to continue his growth as a professional," Forbes said "I look for him to lead the pitching staff. It's a big advantage for all the guys who were here last year," he said. "They know what this level is about and what is expected of them.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.