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Pirates could be bracing to lose Russell Martin to free agency

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Notes from Neal Huntington's press meeting this afternoon:

Market for Martin may be too strong for Pirates

Huntington was asked whether he felt comfortable that Tony Sanchez was prepared for the rigors of becoming an everyday major league catcher. Huntington's response included the following possible hint that the Pirates are anticipating being unable to re-sign Russell Martin.

"If the market goes where we think the market is going to go on Russ Martin and we've got to become creative, then we've got an internal option in Tony Sanchez. But, we'll see. We're still working through that."

Pirates prepping to "rebalance" roster ... but maybe not now

With Neil Walker scratched from the lineup and the Pirates carrying only six relievers as opposed the more common seven, speculation is that the team will send Walker to the disabled list and call up Brandon Cumpton. However, Huntington was noncommittal about who the reliever would be and when the Pirates would make the move.

"There will come a point in time when we'll need to rebalance [the roster]. We'll have to weigh where Neil Walker is and how far away he is and what's the best thing for him with what's the best thing for Andrew McCutchen and how far away we think he is," Huntington said.

Huntington added that the Pirates wanted to make sure that Cumpton is put in a "position to be successful.

"Pitching 10, 12, 14 days and trying to come up and throw strikes out of the bullpen at the big league level may not be in his best interests," Huntington said.

"Fortunately, we've got some other guys down that that we feel comfortable about and feel comfortable that they can come up here and do that if we need them to."

Huntington fascinated by McCutchen's rehabilitation

Huntington was very upbeat about Andrew McCutchen's rehabilitation from his fractured rib, describing his progress as "remarkable" and the process "fascinating."

He emphasized that McCutchen has been honest with the team throughout the process and that, to date, he has met every challenge placed in front of him.

"To this point in time he's passed every barrier we've thrown at him with flying colors. But to be back at a 100 percent baseball player and the player that Andrew McCutchen can be that's the next one, the next set of challenges we'll put him through."

Since the injury it "torque-based," Huntington said they need to approach recovery "thoughtfully."

"He obviously creates a ton of torque when he swings the bat, so we still got a big hurdle to clear but we are optimistic and I'm not sure anybody could work any harder, or be any more positive about the process than Andrew's been so far."

Alvarez "still our third baseman"

Pedro Alvarez is still the Pirates third baseman and everything is being done to help him overcome his throwing problems. Huntington said that they are a "deeper and more talented" team with him at third. However, until the throwing issues are resolved, having Alvarez learn first base will give Clint Hurdle more "flexibility and versatility" going forward.

"Pedro's been strong through this and he still wants to stay and fight and stay at third base," Huntington said. "He's accepted the first baseman's mitt to help the club, because he recognizes how well that Josh is playing and that he's contributed to some of our challenges at time."

The club would also like to restore Josh Harrison to the super utility role.

"We'd still prefer to jump Josh all around and be able to keep everybody strong by having Josh play regularly, but play at a bunch of different positions. We still feel like in an ideal world where we'd like to go."

Hanson getting a ‘refresher' course at second base

Huntington said that Alen Hanson is receiving playing time at second base so that he will be "in a position where he could help us maybe soon than later at second or short, if we had an injury next year." He maintained that the club still thinks playing shortstop is in Hanson's future, but the goal is to allow him to "come up and play a position comfortably, or come up and provide us with a spark off the bench.

Walker doesn't expect to be out long

After Sunday's game, Neil Walker met with reporters and said that he was not "far away" from returning.

"I've talked to some people, there is nothing that is going to knock me out for a period of time."

He described his injury as a "back spasm that just won't loosen up."