Sanchez Wants to be in the Mix
Sanchez ended up with a .291 batting average with five home runs and 35 RBI. When Jose Castillo was felled by a knee injury on August 22, Sanchez got the bulk of the starts down the stretch at second base. He had 58 starts at second, 65 at third base and 11 at shortstop. He batted a sparking .325 in the month of September. "I feel okay about what I did," Sanchez offered. "Obviously I'd feel better if we had more wins. It means a lot to me to finish strong because earlier in the year I really didn't have my stroke; I really didn't have my swing. I felt I was just making contact and finding holes, but I felt I wasn't swinging the bat with any authority like I know I can and I've done in the past. For me to come out and find my swing although it was late - I'll take it and to stay healthy for the whole year was a positive for me and gives me a lot of confidence going into next year." Sanchez is a shortstop by trade, he doesn't figure to displace Jack Wilson. When the Castillo-Wilson middle infield tandem, one of the Major Leagues' best, is back in order -- and with the Pirates shopping for a power-hitting third baseman -- where does that leave Sanchez in 2006? "My goal next year is to make the team," Sanchez said. "My one goal is just to make this team, obviously we've got a shortstop and a great second baseman and those guys are going to be there for awhile. If they go out and get a third baseman that kind of puts me back into that utility role. It's something that I'm going to accept and it's what I've got to do. But my main goal is to come out and make the team. That's the first goal." General manager Dave Littlefield does not rule out Sanchez figuring into the equation at third, but he continued to point to that position as an area where the Pirates want to improve their power, along with first base and right field. "Certainly, Freddy will be part of the internal options," Littlefield said. "For sure, he was impressive the way he's swung the bat coming down the stretch." If he is thrust into the utility role, Sanchez feels he is now better equipped to handle that role. "It's a very different approach," Sanchez explained. "You have to come to the field not only physically ready to play everyday, but mentally ready to play everyday not knowing what inning your going to get in and just being ready every inning. Getting up and stretching throughout the game and hitting in the cage and just being ready for any situation." Sanchez wants to make the Pirates decision on how best to utilize him a tough one. He hopes to force the Pirates to play him. "That's everybody's goal, to be an everyday player. I want to make their decision difficult."