Jonathan Sanchez, who contributed significantly to the Giants' 2010 surge toward their first San Francisco-era World Series triumph, is scheduled to pitch for the Reds against his former team in Tuesday night's Cactus League game at Scottsdale, Ariz.
Sanchez, who hasn't performed in the Major Leagues since 2013, maintains warm feelings for the Giants but won't let sentiment interfere with his comeback bid.
Said Sanchez of the Giants, "It's my old team. ... But I have to do my job."
For a time, Sanchez did his job marvelously with San Francisco. He became the first Giant to throw a no-hitter in 33 years when he throttled San Diego on July 10, 2009. The following season, he finished 13-9 with a 3.07 ERA and 205 strikeouts. The left-hander particularly excelled when it counted most, posting a 4-1 record with a 1.01 ERA in his final six starts to propel the Giants past San Diego for the National League West title. Sanchez earned the decision in the season-ending clincher, blanking the Padres for five-plus innings.
But inconsistent mechanics troubled Sanchez. He went 4-7 with a 4.26 ERA in 19 starts in 2001, prompting the Giants to trade him to Kansas City. Sanchez proceeded to pass through the Royals, Rockies and Pirates organizations, bouncing all the while between Triple-A and the Majors. He didn't play in organized baseball at all in 2015 after sustaining a shoulder injury.
Sanchez regained health and hope this past offseason. Assisted by Mayaguez coach Alex Cruz, who tinkered with his mechanics, Sanchez went 1-1 with a 2.72 ERA in 11 games (eight starts) and struck out 32 batters in 36 1/3 innings in winter ball in Puerto Rico. Cruz convinced Sanchez to abandon his windup, which helped him "get on top" of the ball better.
The Giants offered Sanchez a Minor League contract. But the 33-year-old took the Reds' offer, which included an invitation to Major League camp.
"The way I pitched in Puerto Rico and the way my ball is coming out, I know there's something there still," Sanchez said. "Now that I don't throw hard anymore -- I'm in the 90s but not the mid-90s -- I have to throw more than one pitch for a strike. I have to throw in and out of the zone. Before, when I was a kid, I'd just blow hitters away, throwing the fastball by people. Now I have to pitch."
Asked how he would perform if he could combine his current pitching mechanics with the electric stuff he displayed during his better days with the Giants, Sanchez grinned and said, "I would have thrown a no-hitter every day."
But he has no regrets about his 2006-11 tenure with the Giants.
"Thanks to them, I have almost seven years in the bigs," Sanchez said. "I'm thankful for everything they did for me. They gave me an opportunity to pitch."