ST. PETERSBURG -- The Pirates received encouraging news out of Birmingham, Ala., early Monday afternoon after noted orthopedist James Andrews finished his evaluation of Pirates second baseman Freddy Sanchez.
Andrews looked over the MRI exam that was done by Pirates orthopedist Patrick DeMeo last week and agreed with DeMeo's assessment that there was no structural damage in Sanchez's right shoulder.
Andrews confirmed that the pain Sanchez has been dealing with when throwing is simply a result of inflammation around Sanchez's right shoulder rotator cuff. Other than rest and a slow buildup to where he can throw at normal strength, Sanchez is not going to need to take any other medical action.
The Pirates had decided to seek a second opinion on Sanchez's shoulder to ensure that their course of action would ensure the quickest recovery time for the second baseman.
With the confirmation of their initial diagnosis, general manager Neal Huntington said that the team expects Sanchez to be ready to play in the field in the team's season opener next Monday. As a result, assuming there are no other setbacks this week, Sanchez will not have to start the season on the disabled list for the second straight year.
Sanchez will return to Bradenton, Fla., later on Monday and will play in the Pirates' Minor League game at Pirate City on Tuesday. He will be used exclusively as a hitter.
The goal now is to get Sanchez back on the field by this weekend. How many games he will play and how strenuous his work at second will be are all going to be left up to Sanchez's discretion.
"We'll do as much as Freddy feels, defensively," Huntington said. "We're going to play off Freddy. He knows what he needs."
Huntington added that the team also has the option of leaving Sanchez in Bradenton an extra day to get some work in next Sunday before joining the team in Atlanta for Monday's opener.
Fortunately, the pain in Sanchez's shoulder is situation-specific and does not flair up except when Sanchez throws. So until the point where he is cleared to play second, Sanchez will be able to get a sufficient number of at-bats to get him ready for the season.
The second baseman had been slow to get going this spring after undergoing minor arthroscopic surgery at the end of last season. He had increased the distance he threw and how hard he threw before taking the field for the first time last Wednesday.
Sanchez made his second start of Spring Training two days later, but complained of pain in his shoulder when he came out after six innings in the field. It was after that point that the Pirates shut him down from activity and decided to send him to see Andrews.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.