Q+A: Tony Sanchez working on defense at Indianapolis

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

I spoke with Pirates catcher Tony Sanchez Thursday afternoon, hours before he went 1-for-3 with a double and threw out a base stealer in Indianapolis' 1-0 win over Columbus. Here's a lightly edited transcript. Sanchez talks about working on his defense, his top under-the-radar pitcher on Indianapolis' staff, and what he might do when his playing career is over.

So what are you working on here?

Everything, almost every aspect of my game. For me to be the guy they want me to be up there [in Pittsburgh], I need to be consistent behind the plate, physically. My pitch-calling, it's always going to be there. My relationship with my pitcher is always going to be there. Throwing accuracy and the things I need to work on, the things they told me I needed to work on, I just need to be consistent. I think I've done a really good job of that [in Indianapolis]. My hitting has taken a backseat. Not that I don't want to hit, but I've put such emphasis on my defense that I'm not really -- I don't want to say "focused," but I've put in a lot of effort into being that guy behind the plate that they want me to be.

Is that what they need to make you the starting catcher next year?

Yeah, I've got to prove that I'm not going to be a liability back there. I've got to prove that I can make the transition, regardless of who's up there right now. Chris Stewart and Russell Martin are extremely reliable catchers, and so when I get back there, I want them to have that same trust in me.

Did you learn anything from them when you were up there?

Tons. Last year when I had Russell and Mike [McKenry], I only had the success I had because I learned from them, whether it be mechanical things, transfer things, or calling pitches for certain guys, [or] how to interact with certain pitchers, especially [Francisco] Liriano. He and I built a little rapport last year. We had a little bit of success. I owe a lot of that success to Russell, because he taught me how to catch Liriano.

So when he's telling you how to catch Liriano, what are examples of the things he's telling you?

What he likes to throw in certain counts, what I should expect in certain counts, what I should look for in his mechanics to make sure he's in a good position to throw strikes. With a lot of guys, there's one key that they need to focus on, and if they're not doing that one key, [they] can throw their rhythm entirely off. Russell helped me -- and Ray Searage, who's one of the best in the business. I have that one thing I can look for with each pitcher and remind them, "Hey, you need to be doing this," and get them back on track as soon as possible.

So is your hitting like, "I'm probably going to be okay in that regard"?

No, because hitting is extremely difficult. I still work a lot on my hitting. But I probably work twice as much on my defense. It's not that I don't care about my hitting, it's just that, right now, I'm trusting what I've worked on [with] my hitting to translate into the games a little more than what I'm doing with my defense. Because there's a lot more work going into my defense right now. That's normal for catchers. We've got so many [aspects] of our game that we need to fine-tune. We have to take a little bit of time away from our hitting.

Plus, I imagine, the fact that it's physically exhausting.

Yeah, it's not easy. You go home and you're tired. You go to sleep and you wake up and you do it the next day. That's why we get paid the big bucks.

Do you ever get that fourth at-bat of the day and your knees are killing you ...

Oh yeah. I get the first at-bat and my legs are dead. But you block it out. I've learned to hit with dead legs. Catching day games after a night game, you don't have any legs. You're just grinding through it. You don't think about it. The less you think about it, the less it going to affect you.

Is there a sense of frustration right now being down here in Indianapolis?

No! Not at all. They give me every opportunity to succeed. When Neal [Huntington] called me in the offseason, told me they were going to [acquire] Chris Stewart and gave me his reasoning man to man, they didn't have to do that. He doesn't have to tell me anything. He can make the moves he wants to make, and I can find out on Twitter, for all most GMs care. But he called me and went out of his way to let me know that I'm still their guy. They still believe in me, and they want me to be the guy, which is why I'm playing every day here in Indy. Unfortunately for Chris and Russell, they both got hurt, and for me, I got opportunities to showcase what I can do. I took advantage of those opportunities. But it was good, almost, to get down here, because I wasn't playing every day up there. It was kind of like, "Better find a way to get this job done," even though you're not right. Your timing's not there. [You] better find a way.

What are the big differences in lifestyle between here in Triple-A and up in the majors?

You're making a lot more money up there, but other than [that], you're around the same guys you've been around for the last few years. Everyone's laid-back and mellow. It's not a big change. You're [just] playing bigger venues. I don't think the lifestyle changes. You just have to wear suits a lot more often, and you fly on chartered flights, and you're treated like a big-leaguer. But here, playing in Indy, we're spoiled. [It's] as close to the big leagues as it gets, in a beautiful ballpark in a big-league city, and luckily we get to come to Columbus and Louisville, two of my favorite parks in the IL, all the time. So it makes the transition from Triple-A to the big leagues a little easier. Obviously, I want to be in the big leagues forever, but if you're going to have to come down to a Triple-A ballclub to get some work in, the best place to do it is Indy.

Is there a pitcher down here who is maybe a little under the radar who you think is really exciting?

Yeah. [Brandon] Cumpton was under the radar.

Maybe not so much anymore.

Yeah. He was my guy last year. Loved catching him, still love catching him. And I think Jay Jackson's got a lot to give to a ballclub, whether it be the Pirates or any other ballclub. I caught him in spring, and I've caught him a lot here in Indy. Every time out, he's got a plus fastball with a plus slider, and two other pitches that he mixes in there to keep guys off balance. He's done a really good job every time he's thrown to me. There's not a lot of talk about him, but he's got the potential to be a really great arm out of the bullpen.

I know you don't want to think past your playing days, but what do you see yourself doing after you're done playing?

Who knows? Hopefully being that dad [whose] son's baseball teammates all think is really cool. I played with Andre Dawson's son, and the other guys were like, "Oh my God. That's the coolest guy I've ever seen."

You ever think about broadcasting?

Yeah, I have. It's been thrown out at me. I would love to try it. I know it's not easy. But I've been told I have the personality for it. But that's something I haven't put too much thought [into]. I did study communications [at Boston College]. I wasn't a big public speaker, but you're behind the camera [as a broadcaster]. There's not many people looking at you, just you and another guy, and you're talking baseball. The only job better than that is playing the game. After a long, successful career, if somebody wants to give me a job, I'll do it gladly.

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