Tony Sanchez took awhile to get things going at the Class AA level last year.
Sanchez had just one extra base hit in April and it carried over to the rest of the season. The top catching prospect in the Pirates' system had just 20 extra-base hits in 469 plate appearances.
Friday in just his second game of 2012, Sanchez doubled his April extra-base output from a season ago by crushing the go-ahead double off the centerfield wall in a 4-2 Altoona victory over Erie at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
The Curve’s Elevys Gonzalez tries to warm up near a space heater in the dugout.
"It definitely feels good to get the first couple out of the way," Sanchez said. "Last year it was a joke how long it took me to get my first extra-base hit.
"This year [after Sanchez tripled in the first game] it was kind of funny when I got back in the dugout. The guys all said 'you got it a lot earlier than last year' so it just goes to show how hard work can help you."
Sanchez's blast that drove home Jarek Cunningham to break a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the fifth inning made Nathan Baker the winning pitcher.
Tonight: Erie Seawolves at Altoona Curve, 6 p.m.
Pitching matchup: Seawolves LHP Jared Wesson (0-0) vs. Curve RHP Brandon Cumpton (0-0)
Covering the bases
LEADING OFF: It took only one day for a Curve player to get called up to Triple-A. 3B Jeremy Farrell was promoted Friday to Indianapolis, which placed IF Jake Fox on the disabled list. Farrell went 1-for-4 in Thursday's opener after hitting .260 with five homers and 38 RBIs in 88 games for the Curve last season.
SAFE AT FIRST: Farrell might not be with Indy very long since he has limited experience in Double-A. Then again, if he gets an opportunity to play a lot and succeeds, the Pirates could decide to keep him there.
STEALING SECOND: Elevys Gonzalez will take over at 3B for the Curve with Farrell's departure. Gonzalez led high-A Bradenton with 83 RBIs last season while batting .322 with six homers and 36 doubles in 126 games.
ROUNDING THIRD: IF Greg Picart has been added to the Curve's roster from extended spring training. He hit .218 with one homer and 14 RBIs in 56 games for Altoona last season.
HEADING HOME: Tonight's promotion: Fireworks
- Cory Giger
Baker went five innings, allowed just two hits and walked two. The left-handed pitcher struck out five and allowed just one earned run but had his pitch count driven up after a Matt Curry fielding error in the first inning.
"When we didn't take care of the ball, it never rattled him," Altoona manager P.J. Forbes said. "He kept attacking and pitched three scoreless innings after the error. For me, he showed a lot of poise for his first AA outing."
For the second consecutive night, the Curve tacked on an insurance run in the eighth inning after leading by just one.
Sanchez singled to lead off the frame, went to second on a Curry walk and scored on Elevys Gonzalez's single.
"[Sanchez] has power. I witnessed it in the Florida State League and when he came to Lynchburg," Forbes said. "For me, the important thing is his approach. He's seeing the big part of the park, using the whole field and he's hitting.
"Last year he seemed to be out of sorts the whole season. He had a real good spring training this year, and he left spring training in a good spot. Hopefully he'll continue to carry it over."
The bullpen also excelled for the second night in a row after another short start by a starting pitcher. Tim Alderson, Ryan Beckman and Kris Johnson combined to throw four shutout innings.
Beckman, however, left the game after just 1/3 of an inning and eight pitches with an injury.
"He said he felt something in his elbow," Forbes said. "We'll wait until he sees the doctor tomorrow. I don't think he was real comfortable coming out of the bullpen. He felt tight, but hopefully it's nothing serious."
Johnson relieved Beckman and pitched the final 1 2/3 innings for the save.
"[Johnson] had a pretty incredible season in winter ball," Forbes said regarding the left-handed reliever. "He's as tough on right-handers as left-handers with that split changeup he has, and he's a veteran guy who can cover both here and in Triple-A."
Key player: Tony Sanchez hit the go-ahead double in the fifth inning and scored an insurance run in the eighth after a single.
Key play: Sanchez's double off the centerfield wall broke a 2-2 tie.
Key stat: The Curve bullpen has not given up an earned run so far this season through nine innings.
How they scored
Top 1st: Jamie Johnson walked, scored on Rawley Bishop sacrifice fly. (0-1).
Top 2nd: John Murrian singled, scored on Michael Rockett triple. (0-2).
Bottom 3rd: Robbie Grossman singled, scored on Jarek Cunningham single (2-1).
Bottom 5th: Brock Holt singled, scored on Cunningham double. Cunningham scored on Tony Sanchez double. (3-2).
Bottom 8th: Sanchez singled, scored on Elevys Gonzalez single. (4-2).