Pittsburgh Pirates Minor League Report

Pittsburgh Pirates Minor League Report

<b>NASHVILLE <br><br> BACK IN THE SWING</b><br> Freddy Sanchez was considered the top hitting prospect in the Boston Red Sox farm system when he was acquired for pitchers Jeff Suppan and Scott Sauerbeck at last season's trade deadline, but a stress fracture in his right ankle limited him to one 2-for-5 appearance

Aug. 3 in Nashville before his season ended.

Now, almost a year later he's finally rounding back into form.

Sanchez had a five-game hitting streak snapped Tuesday in a loss to Memphis, but during those five games he was 5-for-14 (.357), much better than his .206 season average.

The only problem the Pirates will have is what to do with him when his rebab stint ends.

Sanchez, a natural shortstop, would be hard-pressed to move stalwart All-Star Jack Wilson and most likely won't upset the balanced rotation of Bobby Hill and Jose Castillo at second base even though all nine starts he's made at Nashville have been there.

Hill, though, has seen some time at third and, considering Chris Stynes' well-publicized struggles there, he could move into the rotation with Rob Mackowiak and allow Sanchez some time at second.

Frank Brooks, the unheard-of southpaw picked up from the Phillies in the trade that sent former closer Mike Williams eastward, has a 4-3 mark with a 4.26 ERA as he has worked primarily out of the bullpen. He has, though, started six games for the Sounds, though with PCL All-Star Dave Williams on the mend, it is unlikely he would get a call from Pittsburgh anytime soon.

J.R. House has always been at the forethought of the Pirates organization….not for what he's done on the field but for his huge potential.

When the West Virginia native threatened to quit baseball and play college football for the Mountaineers, he was placated with a trip to PNC Park to meet with management. Then came the rash of injuries including an abdominal muscle tear that has some wondering if he'd ever be effective again.

This season in Nashville, House is playing like someone ready to break into the big leagues. He's batting .274 with 11 homers and 38 RBI - much more pop than Jason Kendall - and has committed just three errors behind the plate.

Chances are, with Humberto Cota still on the disabled list and Kendall obviously tiring after a grueling run of more than 30 straight games behind the plate, House could be in the Pirates clubhouse at least as a September call-up.

If not sooner.



Curve first baseman Josh Bonifay wasn't among the four Altoona players chosen to play in the Eastern League All-Star Game July 14 in Bowie, Md., despite a .275 average, 15 homers and 61 RBI, so he took his frustrations out on the rest of the league.

Bonifay was named Eastern League Player of the Week (6/28-7/4) after batting .476 (10-for-21) with two doubles, three homers, nine TBI and eight runs scored for the first-place Curve.

Bonifay, 25, could eventually find himself in Nashville this season, especially if Sounds first baseman Carlos Rivera (.263, six homers and 22 RBI) continues to struggle at the plate.



Hillcats are 3-7 since Jeff Bannister took over as interim manager for Jay Loviglio, who resigned June 24 citing personal reasons. … First base continues to be a strong suit in the lower rungs of the organization as Brad Eldred leads Lynchburg in the triple-crown categories. He has a .321 average with 16 homers and 67 RBI. Were it not for Bonifay, he might already be in Altoona.

Eldred was not chosen as a Carolina League All-Star.



The Crawdads lost their best pitcher Monday when southpaw Tom Gorzelanny was promoted to Lynchburg. Gorzelanny was 7-2 with a 2.23 ERA in 15 starts with Hickory.

To make room for Gorzelanny, the Hillcats demoted pitcher Justin Lord, who was 2-2 with a 2.96 ERA in 14 appearances with Lynchburg.



Crosscutters outfielder Sean Smith went 11-for-29 with two doubles, a triple, two homers, five RBI and nine runs scored over the last week. Williamsport is still in fifth place, 5.5 games behind Aberdeen, in the New-York/Penn League standings.



Though he has only played 10 games, Pirates 2004 first-round draft pick Neil Walker is making an early impression.

Walker, out of Pine-Richland High School, is batting .256 with no homers and four RBI as he acclimates himself to play in the Gulf Coast League.

The switch-hitting catcher has shown signs of some pop - even though he's still getting used to wood bats - with four of his 10 hits going for doubles.

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