Tony Sanchez will make his first career appearance in the field at a position other than catcher in tonight’s game, as the former first-round pick is penciled as the Tribe’s starting first baseman against the Toledo Mud Hens.
Sanchez was rated by Baseball America as the “Best Defensive Catcher” in Pittsburgh’s system in each of his first five pro seasons and has previously seen action in 422 minor league contests behind the dish and three as the designated hitter. The 26 year old has also appeared in 35 big league games as a backstop and three as the DH.
Sanchez confirmed he did not suit up at the corner infield spot in 161 collegiate contests at Boston College. He said tonight will mark the first time he has ever played first base.
Indians coach Mike Pagliarulo, who made 15 appearances at first base during his 11-year career in the majors, credited Sanchez’s bat for his extra action in the infield.
“I’m not sure as far as strategy on the switch, that comes from [the Pirates], but if it can help our club in Pittsburgh, then I’m all for it,” Pagliarulo said prior to tonight’s game. “I played a little first base in my career, so I can help him out there a little, but you have to get Tony’s bat in the lineup.”
The Indians’ new first baseman battled through a slow start this season and has since rebounded from a .214 average to hit .276 (16-for-58) with three doubles, three homers, 10 runs scored and 10 RBI over his last 17 games. As he continues to fine-tune his stroke at the plate, his power is consistently on display with 26 of his 53 Triple-A hits going for extra bases this year.
“He’s been really swinging the bat well now, and that’s a good thing, that’s what we’re looking for,” Pagliarulo said. “I’m sure he’ll do well first thing over at first, and we’ll see what happens.”
Pagliarulo has confidence in a smooth transition for Sanchez from behind the plate over to first. He said Sanchez has the ability and tools to succeed at the position, and the coach’s only concern tonight is debuting at a new position with full-game speed.
“My concern for anyone playing a new position is…(not playing) conservatively; making the right moves and knowing where to go with the ball,” Pagliarulo said. “You never know, Tony is an athlete and a tough kid and a gamer – so hopefully he’ll pull one off tonight.”