Sanchez, Solar Sox cruise past Rafters
Pirates catching prospect recovering from broken jaw in AFL
Despite being sidelined for nearly four months, Pirates catching prospect Tony Sanchez is showing no signs of rust in the Arizona Fall League.
Sanchez singled three times and drove in a run Thursday afternoon as his Mesa Solar Sox cruised past the host Surprise Rafters, 11-6. Two of his hits came in Mesa's nine-run fourth inning as the Sox brought 14 men to the plate.
The fourth overall pick in the 2009 Draft, Sanchez began the 2010 season with Class A Advanced Bradenton. He was batting .314 with a .416 on-base percentage through 59 games when he was hit in the face by a pitch June 22. The Boston College product underwent surgery to repair a broken jaw two days later and missed the rest of the regular season. He resumed some baseball activities in late August, but did not face live competition until the AFL began Tuesday.
"It's been almost four months since I've played in a game with any meaning and let me tell you, four months feels like four years," Sanchez wrote in his blog. "Taking a 95 mph heater to the jaw is not very pleasing and having to spoon feed myself blended Chef Boyardee isn't something I'd wish on my worst enemy."
The 22-year-old has started off strong despite the layoff and is batting .444 in two games for the Solar Sox, who improved to 2-1 with the win.
Teammate and fellow Pirates prospect Jordy Mercer went 3-for-5 with a double and four RBIs while third baseman Josh Vitters added three hits and an RBI. Every batter in Mesa's starting lineup had at least one hit as the team collected 19 -- the most by any team in the AFL's first eight games -- and went 9-for-16 with runners in scoring position.
Mesa starter Josh Zeid (1-0), who went 8-4 with a 2.93 ERA for the South Atlantic League-champion Lakewood BlueClaws during the regular season, allowed one run on two hits over three innings. He struck out three and did not walk a batter.
Left-hander Dan Merklinger started for Surprise and struck out five hitters over just two frames. He gave up a run on three hits.
Jordan Swagerty (0-1) took the loss for the Rafters, allowing four runs -- two earned -- on four hits over 1 2/3 frames. Fellow reliever Lucas Luetge, a southpaw in the Brewers system, suffered the worst of the damage in Mesa's big fourth. He yielded five runs on six hits and a walk in one-third of an inning.
John Parker is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.