Aníbal Sánchez, according to his manager, has been frustrated by the results in his 16th season in the majors. But as Davey Martinez explained it, the 38-year-old veteran missed time this spring with a cervical nerve impingement in his neck after impressing in Spring Training in West Palm Beach, FL, after taking the 2021 campaign off, so he just needed a little time to get back up to speed.
Sánchez missed the first two and a half months of the season rehabbing from the issue in his neck, and he took the mound Thursday night in San Diego (0-5) on the year, with a 7.20 ERA, a 7.48 FIP, 14 walks, 12 Ks, and a .286/.363/.571 line against in 30 IP since returning to the rotation in mid-July.
As Martinez said, however, even when he wasn’t able to pitch, Sánchez found ways to contribute to the team he’s been with since 2019[‘s championship run].
“I love having him,” Martinez told reporters before the series opener with the Padres.
“He’s great in the clubhouse, he’s great with the young kids, he’s great for our catchers.”
“Keibert [Ruiz], he talks to Keibert a lot, about sequences and stuff of that nature, to help him out, so he’s been awesome,” the manager said.
“He keeps everybody going, he’s got a lot of energy, he’s out there, he’s competing, he’s actually done fairly well for us, so it’s good to have him back.”
On a relatively young team, Martinez said, having a veteran like Sánchez around has been invaluable.
“He’s been really good. Not only with the catchers, but he’s been really good with our pitchers as well. I know yesterday he was talking to a lot of our young pitchers about sequences and stuff, as I always talk about.
“And he does that with Keibert and [Tres] Barrera both. He’s good. He understands the game, he knows — because he does so many different things on the mound, that he understands how to mix pitches up and how to change so he doesn’t fall into a pattern.”
Following a year off, and the injury early, Martinez said Sánchez is starting to look like the pitcher he was in 2019 again, but the fifth-year skipper said the personality and energy he brings to the club have been there all along.
“Personality-wise he’s still the same Aníbal that we know. I think a lot of it — once again, I think he [in 2020], he didn’t feel like the way he felt like he did in ‘19. He took the year off, he came back, and this year I think in Spring Training he felt really good, he got hurt, he missed a lot, and during that stretch when he missed all that time, he had to really think about the future and where he was going, and I think now he understands the appreciation he has for the game, and the competitiveness in him. So it made him push, made him stay with it, and now he’s back, and now he’s pitching.
“And like I said, every start, for me, he’s done a little bit better, and it was going to take him some time, because he did miss so much time, and he was coming off year where he didn’t play, but I think now you’re starting to see Aníbal pitch the way he’s capable of pitching, like he pitched in ‘19.
“I don’t remember ever seeing him go — other than the no-hitter bid against St. Louis, go that deep in a game, and I think he understands how to get there now.”
Sánchez went just five innings (on 79 pitches) Thursday night, in his second consecutive start against the Padres, giving up a hit, two walks, and one earned run (on a home run), with four Ks on the night in what was a 1-1 game when he was lifted, and a 3-1 game in the Nationals’ favor when it ended.
Aníbal Sánchez’s Line: 5.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 Ks, 1 HR, 4/3 GO/FO.
Sánchez collected just five swinging strikes on the night (2 with his cutter and 3 with his changeup), though he did pile up 15 called strikes (8 with his sinker, 5 on his cutter, and 2 with his change).
Baseballsavant.com registered six pitches for Sánchez in the outing, ranging from his sinker, which hit 91.5 MPH, to his 63 MPH “mariposa” changeup.
“I think today was the first time the whole year I was able to throw every single pitch in any spot,” Sánchez said after the outing, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“When I’m able to do that, I can get those kind of games.”