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Sanchez states case for big league rotation

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The Pirates are running out of time to make a decision on Jonathan Sanchez, so the veteran left-hander could be out of luck, at least as far as making this team's pitching staff is concerned.

But Sanchez took a stride in making some Major League team's staff with a crisp start in Friday's 3-2 win against the Astros.

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Sanchez allowed one hit -- a leadoff single to Jose Altuva -- then retired the next nine batters he faced, three on strikes. He delivered first-pitch strikes to nine of the 10 batters he faced and did not walk anyone -- the first time since May 17, 2011, and in 34 outings that he has pitched more than an inning without issuing a walk.

"It felt great out there. Like old times," said Sanchez, a 13-game winner with a 3.07 ERA for the World Series-champion Giants in 2010. "Spring Training is for fixing little things, making adjustments, and I'm getting there."

Sanchez figures to have only one more start before March 24, when he can contractually request his release if not yet added to Pittsburgh's 40-man roster. That is a further complication, since the Pirates do not have a vacancy on that roster.

"I gotta make a decision that day," the lefty said. "I'm just thinking about my next start, try to do the same things I did this time, and leave it to them."

"He's here for a reason: We're still looking at how he can fit in," said an impressed Clint Hurdle. "The stuff today was fresh, good tilt in the breaking ball. From his earlier outings, he's covered a lot of distance."

General manager Neal Huntington called Sanchez's opt-out clause a "moot point," considering "we pretty much hope to have the rotation set" by March 24.

"That's something we negotiated in, because of his veteran status, and we're fine with that," Huntington said.

Sanchez did indicate he would not be receptive to declining to opt out and opening the season in the Minors, if the Pirates approached him about it.

"I've been in a big league rotation seven years," he said. "That's where I want to be."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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