FORT MYERS, FLA. – Anibal Sanchez used the word “roller coaster” to describe his 2017 season.
He began the season in the Detroit bullpen, but was moved to the rotation in June. He had four good starts, then seven in which he posted a 8.37 ERA.
He left an Aug. 16 game because of a strained left hamstring. His next start on Sept. 5 lasted five pitches. Kansas City’s Whit Merrifield smoked a liner off his right calf.
Sanchez recovered to finish with four strong starts in which he posted a 2.74 ERA with 31 strikeouts in 23 innings. Now in Twins camp after signing a nonguaranteed contract that will pay him $2.5 million if he makes the team and $500,000 if he doesn’t, Sanchez, 33, is out to prove he has something left.
“I’ve got an opportunity here,” he said. “I can see the opportunity here, too. They are a really, really good group of players, offense, defense, pitchers. Everyone, they’re really good. They have a lot of chances to [go to] another level, make the playoffs and try to win. That’s the first thing in any team. Especially in this one, younger, stronger, faster. There’s a lot of talent over here.”
Sanchez is 90-94 with a 4.09 ERA in his career. But he is 20-30 with a 5.67 ERA over the past three seasons. The Twins feel they can help him with his pitch sequencing to help bring out his old form.
Manager Paul Molitor said he and his staff will meet with Sanchez, talk with him about what worked and didn’t work last season and then devise a plan for this season.
“He always had a big repertoire of pitches, with deception in his delivery and the little Tiant move he does from time to time,” Molitor said. “I just think, between his ability to command and work the ball in both directions, he gives hitters a lot to try to ponder.”
Sanchez looked sharp while throwing in the bullpen Tuesday, working one mound over from Jake Odorizzi, the Twins, other new pitcher.
“I’m not going to overevaluate his first pen,” Molitor said. “I know he has been throwing. I think he has been throwing quite a bit in the pen leading up to camp.”
Stephen Gonsalves, one of the Twins’ top pitching prospects, will start Thursday when the Twins face the Gophers. Miles Jaye is scheduled to pitch two innings. Zack Littell, Lewis Thorpe, Michael Kohn and Jake Reed also are scheduled to pitch.
Molitor said many of the younger players in camp will play. He is a little shorthanded, and might bring a couple players over from the minor league camp to help. Veterans are usually eased into games.
The manager said Aaron Slegers will start Friday against Boston. Adalberto Mejia will pitch the Saturday night game at Sarasota against Baltimore and Kyle Gibson will start Sunday at home against Tampa Bay.
Dozier still absent
Second baseman Brian Dozier was not at camp for a second day in a row as he continues to deal with a kidney stone.
Let’s meet Bobby Wilson
2017 stats: .243, 11 homers, 45 RBI at Class AAA Oklahoma City (Dodgers)
Acquired: Signed as a free agent Nov. 30.
Role: Major league backup or starter at Class AAA Rochester.
Did you know: Wilson broke in with the Angels in 2008 and has since played in at least one game with four other MLB teams. He caught Odorizzi with the Rays in 2016 and has a good relationship with him. “When I signed here, I told him, ‘Hey, this would be a great division for you,’” Wilson said. “The way he pitches up in the zone, and Minnesota being a great ballpark for him, as big as it is.”
La Velle E. Neal III