BRADENTON, Fla. -- Tony Sanchez was happy to find out -- the hard way -- he no longer has a glass jaw.
During pitch-blocking drills, in which catchers are peppered with balls fired into the dirt, Sanchez had one carom up into his jaw. Not exactly a preferred experience for a Pirates prospect whose development has been stalled by two incidents of having his jaw fractured --- once on the field in the middle of the 2010 season, then in a bar altercation following the '11 season.
"It bounced off my arm into the left side of my jaw," Sanchez said. "Right away, I'm like, 'Oh, wow, not that.' But I felt the area and everything was OK, so I'm thinking, 'All right!"
And the young catcher, who will start for the Gold Team in Friday's intrasquad game, did block the pitch.
"Yeah," he grinned, "with my face."
Prospects Cole, Taillon oppose each other Friday
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon, on track to spend a lot of years together as mainstays of Pirates rotations of the future, will oppose each other Friday as Spring Training shifts into another phase.
Cole -- ranked as the Pirates' No. 1 prospect by MLB.com -- will start for the Black Team and Taillon -- ranked No. 2 -- for the Gold in the annual intrasquad game at McKechnie Field, a no-admission preview open to the public, with a noon ET start.
Black: CF Alex Presley, SS Chase d'Arnaud, LF Jerry Sands, 1B Clint Robinson, DH Brandon Inge, 3B Jared Goedert, 2B Josh Harrison, C Michael McKenry, LF Felix Pie.
Gold: LF Starling Marte, RF Jose Tabata, 3B Matt Hague, 1B Gaby Sanchez, DH Brad Hawpe, SS Jordy Mercer, C Tony Sanchez, 2B Ivan De Jesus, CF Darren Ford.
Kris Johnson and Vic Black (naturally) will also pitch for the Golds. Others scheduled to pitch for the Black in the 5 1/2-inning game are Kyle Waldrop, Hunter Strickland and Erik Cordier.
• Manager Clint Hurdle announced the Pirates' pitching plans for the opening weekend of Grapefruit League play.
Lefty Jeff Locke draws the start for Saturday's exhibition opener, in Port Charlotte, Fla., against the Rays, and will be followed to the hill by Chris Leroux, Bryan Morris, Mike Zagurski, Duke Welker, Vin Mazzaro and Brooks Brown, with Ryan Reid also an option. Pitchers will be on a strict pitch count.
When the scene shifts to McKechnie Field for Sunday's home opener, James McDonald will face the Braves, picked up by Jonathan Sanchez, Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, Jared Hughes and Justin Wilson.
• The first thing hockey geek Brandon Inge did upon arriving in Bradenton was get a Tampa Bay Lightning jersey customized with his name and No. 78, to match the uniform number the Pirates issued him.
• Which Pirates are most fundamentally sound in the batter's box? All week, workouts have been spiced by "execution" games in which players are graded on handling various game situations such as hit-and-run, squeeze bunts and scoring runners from third with less than two outs.
Michael McKenry, Garrett Jones, Matt Hague and Starling Marte have scored best. Low men? Russell Martin and Jerry Sands.
"This is not even a glitch. He's just a little tender early, and that's all right. We just want to nip it in the bud before it becomes something else. And we got plenty of time." -- Pitching coach Ray Searage on Jeff Karstens, dealing with biceps tendinitis that has limited him this week to therapy and tossing on flat ground
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.