Aníbal Sánchez got off to a rough start in the first season of his 2-year/$19M deal with the Washington Nationals, going (0-6) in his first nine starts, with a 5.10 ERA, 25 walks, 41 Ks, and a .263/.353/.463 line against over 42 1⁄3 innings pitched.
After time off with a hamstring injury, however, the right-handed veteran came back strong, going unbeaten (8-0) over a 16-start stretch between May 29th and September 4th, and 11-2 overall in his final 21 outings, with a 3.42 ERA, 33 walks, 93 strikeouts, and a .227/.282/.386 line against in 123 2⁄3 IP in those appearances.
During the Nats’ run to their World Series championship, the 35-year-old starter, who turns 36 on Thursday, put up a 2.50 ERA, four walks, 18 Ks, and a .221/.284/.368 line against in 18 IP over three starts, one each in the NLDS, NLCS, and the Fall Classic.
Having been to the World Series once before and the postseason five times now, Sánchez said this winter that he knows what it takes to bounce back and be ready for a new season after pitching deep into October.
“It’s about how you prepare for Spring Training. 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,” the right-hander said.
Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez told reporters on Monday, as quoted by MLB.com’s Jessica Camerato, that they’d be watching Sánchez’s mechanics in his early outings to judge where he is in his progression towards Opening Day.
“It’s all about his mechanics and keeping the ball down,” Martinez said. “The word we use for him is ‘connected.’ He’s got to stay connected with his head and his lower half and not get out ahead of himself with his head. We’ll just be watching that. When he’s throwing strikes, he’s really good. I talked to him this morning; he’s excited about going out there tomorrow.”
Sánchez’s first Grapefruit League start this Spring takes place at 1:05 PM EST in Jupiter, FL’s Roger Dean Stadium, where the Nationals and Cardinals meet up for the first time since the Nats dispatched the Cards in four games in the NLCS last October.