Aníbal Sánchez was part of the Detroit Tigers’ rotation along with Max Scherzer between 2012 and 2014, before Scherzer left via free agency and signed a 7-year/$210M deal with Washington’s Nationals in 2015.
Four years later, Sánchez joined Scherzer in the nation’s capital, agreeing on a 2-year/$19M deal with the Nats which reunited him with his former rotation-mate.
Sánchez, who was scheduled to start Game 5 of the NLCS with the St. Louis Cardinals if the series got there, was asked before the Nationals’ 6-4 win in Game 4, which gave them a four-game sweep, what, if anything, has changed with Scherzer since their time together in Detroit.
“As a pitcher, he’s like -- he’s more mature on the mound,” Sánchez said.
“I think this guy, he was good back then, but now he’s unbelievable. Like I don’t know what he did. I think he like [got to] another level pitcher-wise, and the confidence that he got on the mound is unbelievable. Always he was a competitive pitcher. He’s so smart on the mound, but now like the whole ability that he has to pitch and compete and represent the team that he plays for, he’s unbelievable.
“That’s a different Scherzer than I played [with] in Detroit to the Scherzer right now.”
“That was a time in my career when I really kind of developed and settled into kind of the pitcher who I am,” Scherzer told reporters, in his pre-World Series press conference from Houston on Monday afternoon.
He gave a lot of the credit for what he’s been able to do in his career to another member of the Tigers’ rotation back then, who’s now part of the Houston Astros’ staff.
“In Detroit I learned so much from everybody, and especially from [Justin Verlander], of just how to go about it, attack the lineup, how you take a ball every fifth day.
“Just all the little things that go into being a Major League pitcher. He was at the forefront of that, and we all developed together and it was a fun time.”
Verlander, as Washington Post writer Chelsea Janes noted, was reportedly peppered with questions about Scherzer during his media availability on Monday as well, but he said it’s been a while since they were teammates, and a lot has changed since then.
“I think there’s a lot of similarities but a lot of differences as well,” Verlander said.
“I think on the field, there’s a lot of similarities. Then off the field, there’s a lot of differences in how we go about things as well.”
“Honestly, it’s been a few years too,” Verlander added.
“I think he’s transitioned to be even better than he was when I played with him. You just got to grind. Max is a grinder. He’s going to attack. He’s going to and be relentless, so you’ve got to have the kind of the same approach. Never give in, try not to chase too much, and don’t let them get comfortable.”
Just to complete the circle, sort of, Sánchez was asked last week how he has changed since the three pitchers were in the Tigers’ rotation.
“A lot,” Sánchez said. “I don’t throw high anymore. I don’t got [to] my slider. I use more of my slow change-up. From that, I’m always, I think, my whole career, I use command. I always worry about command. Hit the corners, up and down. That’s what I worry about even when I throw hard.
“But right now, I think I use more experience instead of [trying] to challenge someone, or see what he can do with that pitch instead of this pitch. I just try to keep my game plan all the way from the beginning to the end.
“I try to -- I don’t want to just play around with anything because I don’t have an electric fastball to challenge nobody.”
Scherzer is starting tonight’s game in Minute Maid Park. Verlander is set to go for the Astros in Game 2. Sánchez doesn’t have a starting assignment for the World Series yet.