DUNEDIN, Fla. — The Pittsburgh Pirates told left-hander Jonathan Sanchez and third baseman Brandon Inge they will make the team’s opening day roster.
The pair, signed to minor league contracts as free agents, would have been able to opt out of their deals if they hadn’t been told by Tuesday they will be added to the 40-man roster.
Sanchez, a left-hander, will move into the No. 4 spot in the rotation. That job opened over the weekend, when right-hander Jeff Karstens was bothered by a sore shoulder. The 30-year-old Sanchez was 1-9 with an 8.07 ERA last season for Kansas City and Colorado. He pitched a no-hitter in 2009 for San Francisco.
“In spring training, he’s looked much closer to the guy he was in 2011 and ’10 than the guy who struggled in ’12,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “Jonathan’s last two starts have been very encouraging. The offspeed pitches have been very effective and the fastball command has been good.”
Huntington made those comments before Sanchez went out and gave up four runs and seven hits in 4 2-3 innings in a 6-3 loss to Toronto on Tuesday. Regardless, Sanchez was upbeat after walking one and striking out six.
“They were swinging early. They were trying to hit my fastball and I changed the plan. I went to my breaking pitches,” said Sanchez, a combined 1-9 with an 8.07 ERA during stints with the Royals and Rockies last season.
Sanchez struck out Jose Reyes and Rajai Davis in the first inning, but between them he allowed three runs and three hits. Among the hits was a high popup by Melky Cabrera that dropped between the mound and catcher Michael McKenry.
The pitcher redeemed himself in the fourth inning with his bat, hitting a two-out double. He advanced to third when Sterling Marte reached on an error by first baseman Adam Lind and scored the tying run before Marte was caught in a rundown.
Inge, who is bothered by a bone bruise in his right shoulder, might open the season on the disabled list. Inge has played in only four games since being hit by a pitch in a game March 14.
Sanchez gets a one-year deal worth $1,375,000, and Inge a deal for $1.25 million. The pair must be put on the 40-man roster by Sunday.
Toronto’s Ricky Romero, meanwhile, is getting extra time to work out his woes. The Blue Jays sent Romero to the minors after he pitched Tuesday. He was optioned to Dunedin of the Class A Florida State League. The 28-year-old left-hander was 9-14 with a 5.77 ERA last season. He had a 6.23 ERA in five spring starts this year, allowing 17 hits and 10 walks in 13 innings.
“We ran out of time,” general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. “He’s working on something that he hasn’t completed yet. We didn’t have enough time to get him to get him to complete it.”
“Ricky was better today, there’s no doubt about it and he’s making strides,” he said. “You could see it, everything was better but he’s not there yet. Could we have started with him? Sure, and ultimately it may have come in Toronto as well because he’s making strides here. But he’s not ready and he’s not as sharp as he needs to be and he needs more time.”
Romero, who had been projected as the fifth starter in a revamped rotation, gave up two earned runs on six hits and three walks in 4 1-3 innings against the Pirates. He struck out two and was spared additional damage by several defensive gems behind him.
“I’m not trying to win the Cy Young or anything in the spring,” Romero said after the game, before the move to the minors was announced. “The results haven’t been there, and that’s pretty obvious. And I see it, but it’s not like I’m not working. Sometimes I overwork.”
Said manager John Gibbons: “It’s a game of ups and downs, and he’s been a little down.”
Dustin McGowan returned to work for Toronto, pitching a perfect sixth inning in his spring debut. The right-hander has undergone three shoulder surgeries that have limited him to 21 innings since 2008.
“He won’t be ready to start the season, but it could be not too long afterwards,” Gibbons said. “But we’ve got to make sure he’s good and ready the way his history has been. We don’t want to rush him.”