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Bucs' Stewart has surgery on right knee

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Pirates backup catcher Chris Stewart had arthroscopic right knee surgery Wednesday and is expected to miss four to six weeks. Dr. James Andrews performed the surgery after confirming the team doctors' initial diagnosis.

The exact length of Stewart's absence will depend on how the knee reacts to the surgery in the coming days, though the expected timetable would put him on track to return in mid to late April.

With Stewart out for the start of the regular season, it remained unclear who would handle the backup catching duties. Prospect Tony Sanchez currently sits behind starter Russell Martin on the depth chart, but the Pirates have expressed their desire to have Sanchez playing in an everyday role at Triple-A as opposed to once a week in the Majors behind Martin. Sanchez is rated No. 14 on's list of the Pirates' top prospects.

The only other in-house options beyond Sanchez are Nevin Ashley and Omir Santos, both of whom received invitations to Major League camp after signing Minor League contracts. The lack of depth options could lead the Pirates to pursue a veteran backup through the trade market, allowing Sanchez to begin the year with Triple-A Indianapolis.

Paul Casella is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @paul_casella.
Read More: Pittsburgh Pirates, Chris Stewart, Tony Sanchez