Sanchez close to returning to field

Sanchez close to returning to field

TAMPA, Fla. -- Pirates two-time All-Star Freddy Sanchez could return to the field next week, manager John Russell said on Thursday.

Sanchez has been limited to designated-hitter duty since Spring Training began. The Pirates have been cautious with the second baseman since he underwent arthroscopic surgery on a right shoulder joint on Sept. 28.

"[I'm] looking at starting him sometime next week," Russell said. "He's made very good progress."

The shoulder hasn't kept Sanchez from hitting, as he is batting .333 (9-for-27) entering play on Thursday.

Sanchez played on Wednesday against the Blue Jays but was not on the travel squad for Thursday's game against the Yankees at Legends Field.

"He's been doing all of his work, taking a lot of ground balls," Russell said. "The only thing he hasn't done is get back on the field in the games. We don't want to rush him, but he's close [to returning]."

Sanchez, the 2006 National League batting champion, hit .304 last season while leading the team in batting, hits and multi-hit games.

Sanchez tied Grady Sizemore for the Major League lead with 53 doubles in 2006 and has 95 doubles over the past two seasons, more than any other player in the Major Leagues except Colorado's Matt Holliday, who also recorded 95 doubles across the 2006-07 seasons.

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