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Aníbal Sánchez getting closer to where he wants to be two starts into 16th season

The veteran starter is two starts into his 16th major league season, and feeling like he’s almost where he wants to be.

Washington Nationals v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Rebecca Noble/Getty Images

Aníbal Sánchez sat out of the 2021 campaign, after pitching for Washington in 2019’s World Series season and 2020’s 60-game COVID campaign, then the 38-year-old, 16-year veteran made a decision to return to the mound, signing on with the Nationals again, and working his way back to the big leagues, after dealing with a neck issue which landed him on the Injured List right before the season opener.

Going into Sánchez’s first major league start since September of 2020 earlier this month, Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez talked to reporters about what he’d be watching.

“Just his mechanics,” Martinez said, “... and just we’ll keep an eye on overall about — for me it’s just about how quick he works, and if he starts losing his mechanics then that’s a good indication that he hit his peak, but I was talking to him in there, he’s excited, as well all know Aníbal, he gets excited, so looking forward to him going out there and competing. He’s done this before, he’s done this for many, many years, so it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Washington Nationals v Miami Marlins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Sánchez gave up four hits, two walks, and four runs in five innings, with two in the first and then two in the fifth of a 90-pitch outing, after which he said he was pleased with how the start went, all things considered.

“For two years off, I feel really, really good,” Sánchez said, as quoted by MASN writer Mark Zuckerman after the loss.

“The Braves right now are a pretty hot team. I made two mistakes, and they took advantage of that.”

“I thought he threw the ball well,” Martinez said after the 5-4 loss to Atlanta. “He really did. He didn’t throw as many curveballs as I thought he would throw. His cutter was good, his changeup was good. He threw a few curveballs at the end there, but I thought he was going to throw more curveballs. But by design, because he does his homework, he wanted to pound the lefties with cutters and changeups, and the righties, he threw the ball in quite a bit, so it was good to see him go out and compete like that.”

Start No. 2 for the veteran right-hander was a five-inning, 93-pitch outing against Arizona on the road in Chase Field, in which Sánchez gave up six hits, two walks, and three earned runs in what ended up a 7-1 loss.

Sánchez said afterwards his goal heading into his third outing of the year was to get deeper into his starts following the back-to-back, five-inning appearances.

“Be able to go deeper in the game, that’s what I want,” Sánchez said, as quoted by MASN’s Zuckerman again.

“I want to get more control on my pitches,” the pitcher added. “I think everything is really close. I think I’m close to getting to where I want to be. I think for my next outing, I want to do that.”

Martinez talked before the outing against the D-backs about what it’s taken to for Sánchez to get himself where he is right now.

Washington Nationals v Miami Marlins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

“The work that he puts in every single day, really,” Martinez said, “... to play this game for as long as he [has], and as a pitcher, you’ve got to work hard at it, you really do, you just can’t see your way through by not — but he works diligently every single day to get himself ready, prepares himself well. He’s two days into watching video on the Diamondbacks, so he’s well-prepared.”

That dedication, Martinez explained, which he saw up close in 2019-20, is no different for the now-38-year-old righty in 2022.

“It’s the same, and now what he really is dealing with now is having young catchers. We had two veteran catchers here in ‘19 that really helped him get through some stuff, and now he’s kind of teaching our catchers what to look for, and how to attack hitters when he’s pitching. So he’s done well. He made some adjustments last time with Keibert [Ruiz], in the middle of the game, and I thought they worked well together, today he gets a chance — [Tres] Barrera is going to catch him, and I’ve noted they’ve already communicated for the last few days, even before the break, they were already talking about what he wants to do and how he wants to attack the hitters.”