Results aside, Anibal building up arm strength
Hurler struggles, but keeps building pitch count before season
JUPITER, Fla. -- Everything is back to normal for Anibal Sanchez, except for his pitch count.
The Marlins right-hander made his second Grapefruit League start on Monday, and he logged 49 pitches in a 7-4 loss to the Astros.
The results weren't pretty -- six runs on seven hits in 2 2/3 innings. But Spring Training is for building up arm strength and polishing up for the regular season.
"I need to throw more pitches," Sanchez said. "If I can throw 70 pitches, and get to 100 pitches, I'll be ready. Right now, I need to stretch it out."
The hope was to go deeper into the game on Monday. But the righty was removed after allowing three straight two-out hits in a six-run third inning.
Sanchez elevated some pitches, and he struggled to put hitters away when the count was in his favor.
"He couldn't finish up the hitters," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "He could have had a better outing and made the right pitch when he had to. It cost him maybe another inning."
With a little more than two weeks before Opening Day, Sanchez appears to be lined up as the Marlins' fifth starter, behind Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Ricky Nolasco and Carlos Zambrano.
Sanchez is set to pitch again on Saturday. But the team is aiming to not have him face the Red Sox that day at Roger Dean Stadium. He is scheduled to pitch in a Minor League game on a back field, while lefty Wade LeBlanc gets the start against Boston.
There is nothing wrong physically with Sanchez, who missed time early in Spring Training with soreness in the back of his right shoulder. LeBlanc is striving to make the team as a long reliever, and he will get a closer look against Boston.
In relief of Sanchez on Monday, LeBlanc was effective in 4 1/3 innings. He did surrender a three-run homer to Brett Wallace, but two of the runs were charged to Sanchez.
Guillen said the club can control how Sanchez is used better on the back fields than in a Grapefruit League game.
If need be, innings can be shut down for Sanchez or extended, depending on what the team is hoping to accomplish. Either way, the outing should get Sanchez's pitch count up to at least 70.
Prior to Monday, Sanchez's lone Grapefruit League start was on March 14 against the Rays at Port Charlotte, Fla. In that game, he threw two scoreless innings, striking out four. He was limited to 29 pitches.
For the Marlins to challenge in the National League East, they will be banking on their rotation leading the way.
"I said before, at the beginning of Spring Training, if everybody stays healthy, we are a solid rotation," Sanchez said. "We're solid right now. We have to stay healthy during the season. If we keep the team healthy for the whole year, we're going to win a lot of games."
The most encouraging news Monday was that Sanchez came out of the outing feeling healthy and strong. His velocity maxed at 94 mph.
"I'm good," he said. "Back to normal."
If Sanchez gets back to his old self, that is a good sign for the Marlins. A year ago, Sanchez's record didn't accurately reflect how well he threw. The Venezuela native was 8-9 with a 3.67 ERA in 196 1/3 innings.
He struck out 202 in 32 starts.
Sanchez was a bright spot in a rough year in which the Marlins had crippling injuries to regulars like Hanley Ramirez and Chris Coghlan. Even Giancarlo Stanton and Logan Morrison missed time with ailments.
"Last year, we don't have the guys playing their positions," Sanchez said. "We lost Hanley. We lost Coghlan. We went some times without Stanton.
"I could have won a lot of games. [It seemed like] I'd lose, 1-0. And I won my games, 1-0. If I have more run support, I think I'm going to win a lot of games."