Sanchez intends to stop thieves
MESA, Ariz. — Jonathan Sanchez distinguished himself last year by pitching a no-hitter and ranking fourth among National League pitchers in strikeouts per nine innings and opponents’ batting average.
But that wasn’t all.
Opponents stole 24 bases while Sanchez was on the mound, the NL’s highest total. Though the responsibility for some those thefts rested with Giants catchers, basestealers undoubtedly capitalized on Sanchez’s leisurely pitching motion.
Toward the end of last season, Sanchez began working more intently with pitching coach Dave Righetti on improving his slide-step to home plate and his pickoff move to first base. Sanchez’s improvement with the latter was evident against the Chicago Cubs in Wednesday’s first inning, when he picked off Ryan Theriot.
“I had too many stolen bases last year,” said Sanchez, who practiced his move in the offseason in front of a mirror.
The successful pickoff contributed to the impression that Sanchez is poised for a breakout season. He blanked Chicago for three innings in the Giants’ 5-1 victory and is unscored upon over five innings in two exhibition appearances.
“My fastball was jumping out of my hand,” said Sanchez, who also expressed satisfaction with his offspeed pitches.
Sanchez, who’s expected to start the Giants’ April 9 home opener against Atlanta, said that he’s not yet ready for the regular season. “But I’m close,” he said. “Almost there.”
The competition for reserve roles on the Opening Day roster is too close to call at this juncture. Most of the contenders are playing well, and the remaining ones have not eliminated themselves.
John Bowker is batting .333 (6-for-18) with a team-high 11 total bases. He also has a .611 slugging percentage and a .429 on-base percentage.
Eugenio Velez and Kevin Frandsen are hitting .385 and .357, respectively.
Fred Lewis is hitting only .214 but has a .571 slugging percentage, thanks to a home run and a triple. Similarly, Andres Torres owns a .250 batting average but a .500 slugging percentage.
Manager Bruce Bochy knows that the Giants’ 7-1 Cactus League record is largely meaningless, though he pointed out that it does carry some significance.
“The one thing it indicates is that the kids are playing well,” he said, referring to San Francisco’s rookie corps. “They’re playing half the game and doing a great job.”
Bochy added that this will end after the weekend. Next week, he said, San Francisco’s regulars will begin playing together more frequently.
Right-hander Joe Martinez is experiencing soreness in his right shoulder and is expected to undergo an MRI to determine the source of his discomfort.
— Chris Haft