Sanchez looking for healthy cuts

Sanchez looking for healthy cuts

LOS ANGELES -- As the season began, Freddy Sanchez was able to have a one-track mind. His concern was solely on his right shoulder -- making sure the inflammation began to die down and ensuring that he could make sufficient throws in the infield.

Sanchez didn't worry about his offense. He didn't have to. He had been able to take enough cuts in Spring Training, and for the second baseman, consistency at the plate has rarely been a problem these last two seasons.

Now it's time to switch that focus.

When the Pirates face the Dodgers on Tuesday in the second game of a three-game set between the two clubs, Sanchez will be able to take his position at second base knowing that the discomfort in his shoulder is finally minimal. As a result, it's time to now look at the offensive funk he's in.

After starting the season 5-for-12, Sanchez entered this series with just two hits in his last 27 at-bats. That spanned eight games.

Monday's results, however, should provide some encouragement to Sanchez. The second baseman bettered his hit total from the previous eight games in just five at-bats on Monday. He finished the game 3-for-5.

"With Freddy, you never know," manager John Russell said. "He's one of those guys who in his next 10 at-bats could get 10 hits."

Sanchez continues to emphasize that his shoulder is not bothering him at the plate.

Obviously eight games is a small sample, and what can be defined as a slump right now in April wouldn't be so if it were just another week in July. But with numbers early in the season being magnified because there aren't enough to mask them, the 2006 National League batting champion continues to fight himself at the plate.

"He's very aggressive," Russell said. "Sometimes that can work against him. It's just a matter of him getting his comfort back."

Sanchez and the Pirates will face Los Angeles lefty Hong-Chih Kuo on Tuesday, a pitcher who a number of Pirates hitters have had success against. Third baseman Jose Bautista, who had his first homer of the season on Monday, is 4-for-5 against Kuo, while outfielder Xavier Nady has two hits in three at-bats against the Dodgers' lefty.

Sanchez is 2-for-6 with against Kuo.

Pitching matchup
PIT: RHP Matt Morris (0-1, 5.25 ERA)
Morris continues to battle the command and location of his pitches. As he gets into the middle of games, his pitches are getting flat and moving out and over the plate -- never a good combination. He's not the staff ace that he was earlier this decade, though there is something positive to be taken from the fact that he can typically be counted on to give the Pirates at least six innings per start. Morris has made 15 appearances (13 starts) against the Dodgers and is 4-5 with a 5.57 ERA against the Los Angeles club.

LAD: LHP Hong-Chih Kuo (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Kuo has replaced Esteban Loaiza in the rotation, in part because Loaiza had a rough first inning in his only start of the season, in part because Kuo has not allowed a run this season, in part because Kuo's brittle elbow is not well-suited for relief work. The early-season juggling is an indication that new manager Joe Torre is still getting acquainted with who his players are and what they can do. Kuo gives the Dodgers rotation a left-hander who is effective tying up right-handed hitters. The question about him has never been his stuff, but his health.

Bucs bits:
The Pirates will be one of nine clubs with all of its players wearing uniform No. 42 on Tuesday in honor of Jackie Robinson, who made his Major League debut with the Dodgers on April 15, 1947. This will be the second consecutive year that the entire Pirates team has worn No. 42 on that date. ... Shortstop Jack Wilson continues to recover from a left calf strain and said on Monday that he felt better than he has since the initial injury on April 4. With Triple-A Indianapolis only home through Friday, it seems unlikely that Wilson will be ready to join the Indians for a few rehab starts. It seems more likely that Wilson will play a few games with Double-A Altoona, which is home through next Thursday. Wilson is eligible to come off the disabled list as early as Saturday. ... The Pirates' win on Monday was just their fifth against the Dodgers in the last 19 games between the two teams.

 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• WPGB-FM 104.7

Up next
• Wednesday: Pirates (Paul Maholm, 0-1, 4.35) at Dodgers (Brad Penny, 1-2, 3.86), 10:10 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Off-day
• Friday: Pirates (Ian Snell, 2-0, 3.93) at Cubs (Jason Marquis, 0-0, 5.23), 2:20 p.m. ET

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