The Pirates officially announced today that Chris Stewart has been activated from the disabled list and Tony Sanchez will be sent back to Triple-A. There has been a lot of discussion about this move over the course of the season since Sanchez is off to a hot start with his bat. I’m personally a bit torn; Stewart’s defense reputation is pretty incredible, and Sanchez really has had some struggles throwing the ball from behind the plate, but Stewart can’t hit at all and I think Sanchez has a lot of promise with the bat. If we were talking about any position other than catcher here, I’d default to keeping Sanchez, but since catchers almost never pinch-hit, this situation is quite a bit more complicated. Sanchez is only going to get better defensively by playing every day and having guys run on him; that really isn’t possible if he’s a backup at the big league level. He’s clearly close to being a big league catcher, but I’m not convinced he’s there yet. Stewart’s defense will be useful no matter how poorly he hits, and so I think he’s a fine back-up catcher.
In any case, the timing here is very much worth noting. Sunday is the day you would expect Stewart or Sanchez to catch and so you might think that the move would happen tomorrow, but the Pirates play a game in an American League exactly ten days from today. I would guess that we’ll see Tony Sanchez in a Pirate uniform again very soon.