Former No. 1 pick Sanchez makes catching debut

Former No. 1 pick Sanchez makes catching debut

Former No. 1 pick Sanchez makes catching debut

PITTSBURGH -- The fanfare for Tony Sanchez, the Pirates' No. 12 prospect, was muted compared with the drumrolls for some of the Pirates' other No. 1 Draft choices, such as Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez and, most recently, Gerrit Cole.

But when Sanchez took his place behind a Major League plate for the first time in the nightcap of Tuesday's doubleheader, it marked the arrival of one of the pillars of organizational rebirth.

And the noise inside Sanchez's head more than made up for the relative quiet around him.

"Nerve-wracking," is how Sanchez described the first time he took the field at PNC Park. "Overwhelming. Kind of like all eyes are on you. Everybody knows I'm the guy who struggled the most. It's been a long road for me, and I'm finally back there. It felt like everybody, all 40,000 people were watching every move I made."

The Bucs' first pick in 2009, when he was the overall No. 4 selection, made his catching debut in a comfortable situation, teamed with Brandon Cumpton. It also became a spectacular situation, as Cumpton threw three-hit shutout ball for seven innings of the Bucs' doubleheader-sweeping 6-0 win over the Cardinals.

It reunited Sanchez, whose big league debut actually came last month in a pair of DH appearances during Interleague Play, with someone he often caught at Triple-A Indianapolis.

"It couldn't have been any more ideal than having someone I was familiar with," Sanchez said. "We were on the same page the entire night. No shakes. He made it easy for me. I had a lot of fun."

He also recorded his first Major League RBI, on a seventh-inning sacrifice fly, for the Pirates' final tally.

"Tony did a fine job game-planning with [Cumpton] as well," said manager Clint Hurdle, who hours earlier had admitted, "Everyone in the organization has been looking forward to this."

Speaking of looking forward, the logical timetable is for Sanchez to take over backup catching duties next season and then potentially become a regular in 2015 if Russell Martin departs as a free agent.

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. Steven Petrella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.