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Patient Sanchez determined to be Bucs' No. 1 catcher

Backstop not fazed by Pirates' trade for Cervelli, says competition will help him
MLB.com @Tom_Singer

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Pirates' catching job has been a carrot dangled in front of Tony Sanchez ever since the club made him its No. 1 -- No. 4 overall -- pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.

For the third consecutive offseason, that carrot has been handed off to an escapee from New York.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Pirates' catching job has been a carrot dangled in front of Tony Sanchez ever since the club made him its No. 1 -- No. 4 overall -- pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.

For the third consecutive offseason, that carrot has been handed off to an escapee from New York.

First Russell Martin, then Chris Stewart and now Francisco Cervelli have come from the Yankees to test Sanchez's patience and his resolve.

Pittsburgh may not be big enough for both Cervelli and Sanchez. Actually, Wednesday even the United States wasn't big enough: A few hours before Cervelli came, Sanchez left for the Dominican Republic to play winter ball.

Sanchez has been up for this game of keep away, always offering a reaction to the Bucs' action through his popular Twitter account.

Within minutes of the announcement Wednesday night of Cervelli's acquisition, Sanchez tweeted, "Good. Competition brings the best out of me."

Some people set their watches by atomic time. Others by Pittsburgh's acquisition of an ex-Yankees catcher, and Sanchez's response.

Two years ago, word came of free-agent Martin's signing with the Bucs. Twenty-two minutes later, Sanchez chirped: "What? You guys thought it was going to be handed to me on a silver platter? Gotta earn it. Haven't so far."

Last December, the Pirates traded for Stewart. Sanchez: "Extra motivation never hurt nobody."

Three strikes for Bronx catchers, and Sanchez is out?

Not according to general manager Neal Huntington, who arranged for Sanchez's Winter League deployment with instructions for him to do nothing but catch. Sanchez had begun working out at first base late last season.

"Tony has made progress in some areas defensively and still has a way to go in others," Huntington said. "We remain open-minded about him catching."

An alternative? It does not figure to be at first base. Even barring an upcoming move -- a definite possibility -- the Pirates already have plenty of other in-house options, topped by Pedro Alvarez's likely conversion. If consideration is given to trading Sanchez, it likely will be to an American League club, which could take advantage of his bat at DH; significantly, Sanchez made his Major League debut in 2013 when the Bucs called him up to DH during an Interleague phase of the schedule.

Sanchez's role in the Pirates' plans has been more volatile than any listing on the American Stock Exchange.

This Spring Training, manager Clint Hurdle all but ordained him catcher-in-waiting, proclaiming, "We're looking to him to be our front-line guy in the not too distant future."

In April, he became just that, when a hamstring injury shelved Martin, whose May return shooed Sanchez back to Triple-A.

In August, Elias Diaz was "promoted" to the Bucs' catcher of the near future, with longer-range plans focused on 2013 No. 1 Draft choice Reese McGuire.

In September, Sanchez was among the callups to the expanded roster, but did not appear behind the plate until -- we can't make this stuff up -- the very last inning of the regular season.

With such a wild ride on the baseball roller coaster, it's no wonder Sanchez is relying on patience and determination, and perhaps a bottle of Dramamine.

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.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Tony Sanchez