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Catching depth an issue for Pittsburgh Pirates after Chris Stewart injury

Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Chris Stewart had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Wednesday, opening up a slot on the Pirates' Opening Day roster.
Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Chris Stewart had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Wednesday, opening up a slot on the Pirates' Opening Day roster.
Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

With spring training just over one month old, lineups are starting to become clearer for teams leaguewide. Along with that, injuries have started to take their toll. For the Pittsburgh Pirates, the most recent affliction affected one of the members of the battery: catcher Chris Stewart.

On Monday, it was announced that Stewart, who was acquired from the New York Yankees in the offseason, would visit Dr. James Andrews for an evaluation of his right knee, as Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noted. On Wednesday, it was confirmed by Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that Stewart underwent arthroscopic surgery, and the expected time frame for a recovery would be four-to-six weeks.

Tony Sanchez, who appeared in 22 games for the Pirates in 2013, has played well this spring, batting .290/.333/.516 with two home runs and seven RBI in 13 games. The 26-year-old was initially slated to start the year in the minors with Stewart backing up Russell Martin, but the injury opens up a potential spot to begin the year in Pittsburgh.

According to Brink, Sanchez has thought about the opportunity at hand to start the year in the big leagues.

"I think I've thought about it a little too much," he said. "The fact that there's a good possibility I could break camp, you don't want it to be under these circumstances, but you play the hand you're dealt."

Sawchik notes that the Pirates do have the option of testing the free-agent market for a short-term option while Stewart is out, thereby allowing Sanchez time in the minors.

ESPN's Buster Olney (via the New York Post's Ken Davidoff) points out that the Yankees line up as potential trade partners for the Pirates given the Bronx Bombers' depth in the catching department (and subsequent lack of depth in terms of relief pitching). Davidoff notes that Francisco Cervelli is the "most obvious chip," given that he is out of options. Cervelli has had a strong spring, slugging .500/.533/.929 with three home runs and six RBI in 11 games.

The abundance of bullpen arms who have been named in speculation, namely Vin Mazzaro, Bryan Morris and Jeanmar Gomez, could be used to strengthen weaker areas of the team. What general manager Neal Huntington chooses to do over the course of the next several weeks will be interesting to see, as the Opening Day roster continues to come into focus.