Delivery tweak has Sanchez all smiles
Left-hander figures out how to get ball out of his hand quicker
SCOTTSDALE -- Jonathan Sanchez decided to try something different. The left-hander experimented with an adjustment in his delivery a few days earlier and the wide open spaces of Tucson Electric Park, against the host White Sox, seemed to be the perfect venue to try it out.Call it a successful venture that could continue to pay dividends for Sanchez and the Giants this year. The next day, back in Scottsdale, Ariz., Sanchez was running around the clubhouse with a huge smile on his face. Bengie Molina, who caught Sanchez, confirmed he was a better pitcher as a result. "He did great against a good lineup," Molina said. "That was their 'A' lineup. There's nothing easy about it and he went through them nice and smooth." What made all the difference? It was a matter of inches, a matter of keeping his hands still. "I would start in one position, and then dip my glove to my hip and come back up," Sanchez said. "It took too long to get my hand out. Now I'm quicker." He eliminated the dip as he goes into his windup and the ball comes out of his hand quicker. He's able to get on top of the ball. "It was a way for him to get his hands out of the glove sooner and let his arm catch up with his body," Molina said. "He gets his hand over the ball at the release point. Just a slight adjustment and he kept the ball down and threw strikes." The 25-year-old Sanchez has spent parts of the past two years with the Giants, mostly in the bullpen, but he's been tried as a starter -- something he did his first two professional seasons -- this spring. His first two appearances weren't enough to turn heads, as he allowed six runs in his first three innings. Then came Saturday's effort against the White Sox and Sanchez showed why people are high on him. "The potential has always been there," Molina said. "It's a matter of doing it, and being consistent." Giants' catcher Guillermo Rodriguez first saw Sanchez in 2005 at Class A Augusta, and he knew then Sanchez would make it to the big leagues. "He was a young kid with a nice arm," said the veteran Minor Leaguer. "When I saw him I thought, 'This is a guy who is going to be in big leagues soon.' Now that he's gotten experience at Triple-A and Double-A, he's a lot better."
Rodriguez said it's not uncommon for catchers to suggest adjustments. After all, they do have the best view and are always interacting with the pitching staff."Sometimes he would get under the ball and it's our job to talk to him," Rodriguez said. "Whatever works. He's getting on top of the ball and he's a different pitcher. He locates the ball better and his mentality has improved. He thinks he can win a lot of games. I think he's ready to do just that." Sanchez gave up a double to Nick Swisher on the first pitch of the game and then shut down the White Sox the rest of the way, allowing an unearned run. "I was tinkering with it during a bullpen session a couple of days ago, so I thought I'd use it in a game to see what happens," Sanchez said. "It's a little hard to get used to it. I'm going to keep working on it to get it right. It seems everything else is going well." Sanchez has a career Minor League ERA of 3.42, but it climbed to 5.48 in 60 appearances (eight starts) in the Majors. Still, he has impressive numbers elsewhere, with 95 strikeouts in 92 innings in the big leagues. Molina thinks Sanchez will develop into a good Major League pitcher. "I want him to know we're here to help," Molina said. "That's where the trust starts building. We have to talk and we have to have a game plan. I need to know what he's trying to do and he knows about me." Pretty soon a lot more people will know about Sanchez. It only takes a slight adjustment.
Rick Eymer is a contributor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.