Don’t worry about Gerardo Parra missing out on the dugout dances after home runs and the long hugs with Stephen Strasburg after the pitcher’s starts. Aníbal Sánchez has a plan that’s going to keep Parra involved even though the outfielder signed on with Nippon Professional Baseball’s Yomiuri Giants this winter.
“We’ll probably put him on FaceTime during the game,” Sánchez told reporters when he and the rest of the Washington Nationals held their WinterFest celebration in the nation’s capital earlier this month.
“Probably he’s going to be asleep by the time that we play,” Sánchez acknowledged, but he said that Parra is happy with the decision to continue his career in Japan.
“He’s sad, but at the end, he’s happy about where he’s going.”
Sánchez was happy too, still basking in the glow of the Nationals’ World Series win when he spoke about the 2019 campaign and what lies ahead in 2020.
In his third trip to the postseason this past October, Sánchez, who signed a two-year/$19M deal with the Nationals last winter, finally won a World Series, in his 14th major league run.
“I know a lot of people that I played with in my career who don’t [get to] play in the playoffs, or make the World Series, or even won the World Series,” Sánchez explained when asked if it felt good to wear that World Series patch on his shoulder for his 15th season, “... and I got the opportunity to celebrate at the end of the big game. I’m happy to wear that jersey with the World Series patch.”
Sánchez struggled out of the gate in 2019, in the first year of his two-year deal, going (0-6) over his first nine starts, with a 5.10 ERA, 25 walks, 41 Ks, and a .263/.353/.463 line against over 42 1⁄3 IP.
After time off with a hamstring injury, however, Sánchez came back strong, going unbeaten (8-0) over a 16-start stretch between May 29th and September 4th, posting a solid 3.21 ERA, 27 walks, 75 Ks, and a .225/.285/.358 line against in 92 2⁄3 IP after his stint on the Injured List.
Sánchez made three starts in October, in Game 3 of the NLDS, Game 1 in the NLCS, and Game 3 of the World Series, with a 2.50 ERA, four walks, 18 Ks, and a .221/.284/.368 line against in 18 IP in those outings.
His takeaways from the 2019 season as a whole?
“Everything we’ve done, everything we came through the whole season last year,” Sánchez said, “that makes you happy at the end, especially because you win, but also the effort the whole team made to be in that position.”
Having been to the World Series before, earlier in his career, Sánchez said he also knew it would be a lot of work getting ready for Spring Training, with a shorter-than-usual winter heading into the 2020 campaign.
The key to avoiding a so-called “hangover”?
“It’s about how you prepare for Spring Training,” Sánchez said.
“I think you need to keep working and you need to prepare your body to get ready for Spring Training and do everything normal as soon as your body is ready.”
As for trying to keep that clubhouse chemistry from 2019 going? Sánchez said it helps that the club is bringing back a number of members of the championship roster.
“We still have a lot of people in the clubhouse we did last year, and those guys are ready to continue to do the same,” he said.
“I think all of them are on the same page and they’re ready to start the season.”
Going back to the hugs for his rotation mate, Parra won’t be there for Strasburg after his starts this season, but Sánchez will do his part. He started at WinterFest.
“I saw Stephen yesterday, and I gave him a big hug and he said, ‘There we go again.’”
“Sánchez gave me like two extremely long, borderline uncomfortable hugs already,” Strasburg confirmed.
“So I think he’s trying to make up for [Parra’s absence], which is fine.”