First off, deep down inside we think it will be hard for Jonathan Sanchez to be any worse than he was last year. You know, he was pretty bad last year. So why is it that most of us Pirates fans think it’s absolutely ridiculous to have Sanchez in the rotation?
For me it’s pretty simple. It boils down to the fact that I expected more from the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates.
Yeh, they got me again.
Look, when Sanchez was acquired, I was the guy that sent a text and congratulated the Pirates brass for getting the left-hander. It was the classic buy low move. The Pirates have been interested in the wild one since he was with the San Francisco Giants. You probably remember, way back when Freddy Sanchez was being dangled on the trade market….. and the rumors came out that Sanchez would be coming to the Pirates.
In typical Piratey fashion, that trade never happened. Shortly afterward Sanchez fired the first Giants no-hitter in over 30 years–yeh that one Greg Brown refers to so often this spring. So, yeh, it’s apparent the Bucs staff has been interested in the 6′ southpaw for quite a while.
Is it hard to believe someone on the Pirates staff saw something in the six-foot lefty they thought they could fix? We think that’s pretty easy to make that assumption. The fact that the turnaround–all one month or so of it–happened so rapidly is the big shi# sandwich. Of course, it’s a really good surprise too. Just not one that has too many Pirates fans excited. And for good reason I suppose.
When we were in Bradenton on February 24, it was before the Atlanta Braves game. A game in which Sanchez was scheduled to pitch. The esteemed Wilbur Miller and I were speaking with Neal Huntington about the offseason. We had the usual back and forth and I was about to go grab a beer at the new tiki bar and it dawned on me to go back and ask about Sanchez. The beer could wait.
Huntington perked up, but then issued some guarded words. He said something like…. we see the upside, but we also see why he was available. Pretty fair analysis. And one that surely didn’t sound like Sanchez had a shot in hell in being named to the rotation roughly a month later.
When we watched him pitch later that day against the Braves, he wasn’t good, but it wasn’t bad either. Two innings pitched, two strikeouts, yeh he beaned a batter and issued a walk, but the stuff looked alright. Just enough to leave you a bit frustrated that he couldn’t seem to get it all together.
In his next outing four days later against the Red Sox, Sanchez recorded just two outs. He gave up three hits and four runs, with four walks being the killer. He virtually vanished from our memory on the drive to the airport.
Fast forward to his past three games and he’s pitched 13.2 innings, struckout 13 and walked two. Yeh, the numbers stick out, even in meaningless games, because Sanchez never topped 200 innings with the Giants, he was on the DL often, gave up five walks per nine innings, and in 70 of his 118 starts with San Francisco he didn’t pitch past the sixth inning.
The southpaw is starting to look a bit different. Could it be? No. No. No. No. The team has too many other, younger, yet to be proven arms that deserve a shot. Unfortunately, none of them have pitched like they wanted the opportunity. Gerrit Cole was ok. Kyle McPherson couldn’t put it all together yet. Jeff Locke looks very hittable. Jeanmar Gomez—please. Chris Leroux, Phil Irwin, and insert any other name here didn’t get it done either.
So Sanchez being named the fourth starter isn’t what we imagined when the Pirates stockpiled pitching this offseason like zombies about to be burned on The Walking Dead. Frank Liriano isn’t ready. Electric Stuff Charlie Morton is coming back from Tommy John for God Sakes. Jeff Karstens is hurt once again.
All of those question marks about the arms that were acquired, have surfaced in Bradenton. So thankfully, Sanchez has at least flashed something to build some hope around when the Pirates needed it most. Still, we never could have imagined Sanchez turning it around like this.
So can you believe the lefty will be able to hold down a spot in the rotation until the calvary arrives? Looking at who has done it in the past, we guess it could happen.
Kevin Correia did it. And he was an All-Star who couldn’t strike anyone out and is now the Twins number two starter.
Erik Bedard did it….for a while, especially at PNC Park. And he couldn’t strike anyone out.
It’s just so hard to imagine Sanchez turning around his career as a Pittsburgh Pirates starter. Life just isn’t that nice to fans of the Buccos. Something like that is what happens when players leave Pittsburgh, not when they come to the Burgh.
Let’s face it, we simply didn’t think Operation Dark Horse would be in the starting rotation out of the shoot on April 1. Forgive us if we didn’t go to sleep with visions of a reverse Ryan Vogelsong dancing in our heads.
Nevertheless, here’s why we think Operation Dark Horse/The Jonathan Sanchez Experiment stings so much. It’s freaking 2013. The year of our Lord Two Thousand and Thirteen. Twenty long years have passed.
Hello Pirates ownership! On April 7, (at about 10p.m.) why in the world will we be sitting on the edge of the couch praying that the Pirates fourth starter can throw strikes? Isn’t watching a Pirates game frustrating enough? Let alone a game on the left coast against a team that generates more revenue in one year than the Bucs will generate in five years….AND WE HAVE TO WATCH the most frustrating pitcher in the history of frustration on the mound?
But you very well know that you will be watching and I will be watching too.
We can’t help ourselves.
And for some reason, if Jonathan Sanchez should turn out to become some twisted form of the A.J. Burnett of 2013, oh the praises we will sing. Sanchez certainly deserves it–it’s a cool story….
We just have a real hard time believing something that special could happen again.
We’re Pirates fans for God sakes.