Sanchez hopes he's over the hump

Sanchez hopes he's over the hump

Sanchez hopes he's over the hump

RENO, Nev. -- It's taken a little longer than expected, but catcher Tony Sanchez, who was drafted fourth overall by the Pirates in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, thinks his performance on Wednesday night at the Triple-A All-Star Game is a sign of his future.

Sanchez blasted a three-run home run into the right-field stands in the second inning to power the International League (IL) to a 4-3 victory over the Pacific Coast League (PCL) on Wednesday at Aces Ballpark.

"I ended up getting just enough to get it over [the fence]," said Sanchez, who won Top Star honors. "You're trying to do your best against these guys not knowing how they throw."

Sanchez drilled Astros prospect Jarred Cosart's belt-high fastball just over the right-field wall to put the IL ahead, 4-2.

"Obviously, Tony with the big home run [was crucial]," said IL starter Greg Reynolds, who earned the win. "It's just fun to see all that talent on the field."

Sanchez said he was unsure if the ball would get over the fence, but he knew right away that he had "at least a double."

"It's been a long road these last few years," Sanchez said. "Just to be an All-Star really is a testament to the offseason."

After struggling with a .233 average after earning a promotion to Triple-A Indianapolis last season, Sanchez focused on improving his at-bats during the offseason. This year, he's batting .282 with a .364 on-base percentage and more home runs (nine) than all of last year.

The only problem for Sanchez, who appeared in two games with the Pirates earlier this season, is that Pittsburgh possesses one of the top pitching staffs in the Majors, and he is well aware that teams rarely entrust a rookie catcher to handle a staff during a postseason race.

"It was awesome," Sanchez said of his Major League debut. "They're playing really well. I've caught them all, but still, I know it's hard to throw another catcher out there with a No. 1 staff. To go in there and expect to be the top catcher is unrealistic."

So with Russell Martin firmly entrenched as Pittsburgh's top catcher, Sanchez said he is focused solely on improving with Indianapolis, but he did soak in this week's All-Star festivities.

"These are guys you've never faced before," Sanchez said.

Sanchez is hoping it's just a matter of time before he has the opportunity to face them all, regardless of which level it's at.

Andrew Owens is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @OwensAndrew. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.