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Notes: Sanchez has return in sight
06/01/2004  8:29 PM ET
PITTSBURGH -- Tuesday, Pittsburgh Pirates infield prospect Freddy Sanchez finally got his first look at the inside of the home clubhouse at PNC Park.

Sanchez, who was acquired from the Boston Red Sox in a trade last July, was expected by most to compete for the Opening Day job at second base. However, Sanchez's progress from offseason ankle surgery was slow and he was forced to remain in Bradenton, Fla. for extended spring training after the rest of his teammates returned to the Steel City.

"It was kind of tough being down there and not being up here," said Sanchez. "But I think it was better for me. I got a lot of at-bats, I got to see a lot of live pitching and I got my ground balls in."

Sanchez made his first visit to PNC Park on Tuesday. He will remain in Pittsburgh to work out with the club's training staff while the Pirates are away on an 11-day, nine-game road trip.

"At least being up here, I feel like I'm getting closer," said Sanchez. "They are going to get their hands on me and I'll be well taken care of."

How close?

"There's not really a time table. I'm assuming a couple to a few weeks," said Sanchez. "That's just my guess because I feel like I'm getting close.

"The ankle has been feeling a lot better."

Staff meets with Benson: Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon, pitching coach Spin Williams, bullpen coach Bruce Tanner and hitting coach Gerald Perry held a closed-door meeting with struggling starter Kris Benson in McClendon's office on Tuesday afternoon.

The Pirates skipper declined to discuss the details of the meeting with reporters, but he did believe the discussion would be beneficial for Benson, who went 1-3 with an 8.10 ERA in five May starts, including an 8-3 loss to St. Louis on Monday.

"I'll just say it was a very productive meeting and one that I'm glad we had," said McClendon. "I think we all feel better about things.

"It can be productive to have those kinds of conversations from time-to-time with different players."

Benson, who will be eligible for free agency following the season, agreed that the meeting went well. He also quelled any speculation that there was a rift between him and the team.

"We talked about my next start and changing my game plan," said Benson. "They shared their thoughts, what they see [and] what they think I need to do to turn this thing around. It wasn't negative in any way. It was very constructive criticism."

Bucs bits: The Pirates/Cardinals rainout at Busch Stadium last Tuesday has been rescheduled as part of a split doubleheader on August 20. The first game will begin at 1:10 p.m. ET. The nightcap is slated to start at 7:10 p.m. ET. ... The Pirates added two promotional giveaways to the final two games of the current home series with the Cardinals. Wednesday, all fans 12 and under will receive a complimentary pass to Sandcastle Waterpark. Thursday, the first 10,000 fans entering the park will receive one of two T-shirts honoring NL Co-Players of the Week Daryle Ward and Rob Mackowiak. ... McClendon held extra fielding practice for his pitchers and infielders before Tuesday's game against the Cardinals. "In my mind, there is no reason not to continue it during the season to try to keep your pitchers sharp," said McClendon. "It may help you win a ballgame along the way." McClendon added that the practice had nothing to do with Ward's curious decision not to step on first base for an out before making a throw in Monday's loss. "The guy just forgot to step on the bag. How do you work on that?" the skipper asked with a smile.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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