Clubhouse Chatter - 'Ace' Sanchez keeps cards in Suns' favor

June 05, 2005|by BOB PARASILITI

When the deck is stacked against the Hagerstown Suns, manager Gene Richards is confident with the knowledge that he has an ace to draw.

Jose Sanchez is Hagerstown's top hand and the closest thing to a guaranteed winner for the Suns this season. He might be the most overlooked starter in the South Atlantic League, especially playing for the Suns, who are studded with standouts and have all but owned first place in the North Division.

"He may be (a quiet ace) to some, but not to me," Richards said Thursday after Sanchez received a no-decision in Hagerstown's 6-3, 11-inning loss to Lakewood. "He is the ace of the staff. He comes out for us when things are going badly and puts the stop to it. When we have been losing, he comes in and gets the job done."

Sanchez has been flying under the Suns' radar because of the presence of Matt Durkin and Gabriel Hernandez, the New York Mets' second and third picks in the 2004 amateur draft. Most of their outings have been magnified by various Mets fan magazines.


Yet Sanchez, who signed as a free agent in 2002, has found his stride this season for the Suns.

The right-hander is an SAL-leading 9-0 with wins in all but two starts - and both were games Sanchez left while leading but the Suns failed to protect.

"He works fast, throws strikes and doesn't get rattled when he's in a tough spot," Richards said.

Sanchez had the chance to get rattled Thursday in what became his longest outing of the season. He allowed leadoff home runs in the fifth and seventh, but followed by setting Lakewood down with relative ease to prevent further damage. Sanchez relied on his trademarks of working fast and keeping his pitches down to force the opposition to hit the ball on the ground.

Sanchez has won five games with a 1.92 ERA in games after Suns losses.

"He's like a guy who is playing at the end of a basketball game. You can't be afraid to take the last shot. He's like that because he doesn't worry if he gets in trouble and, if he does, he forgets about it the next time he pitches. He is our stopper."

Suns spots

· Statistical look at Sanchez:

Overall: Record 9-0. ERA: 2.47. Innings: 62.0. Hits: 55. Runs: 19. Earned runs: 17. Walks: 15. Strikeouts: 39. Opponent's batting average: .241.

Home: 4-0, five games, 1.55 ERA, 29 innings, 23 hits, .215 batting average, 5 earned runs, 4 walks, 21 strikeouts.

Away: 5-0, 3.27 ERA, 33.0 innings, 32 hits, .256 batting average, 12 earned runs, 11 walks, 19 strikeouts.

April: 4-0, 2.45 ERA, 22.0 innings, 15 hits, .190 batting average, 6 earned runs, 5 walks, 15 strikeouts.

May: 5-0, 2.45 ERA, 33.0 innings, 34 hits, .274 batting average, 9 earned runs, 9 walks, 21 strikeouts.

· Mike Carp has struggled since the Suns have returned from their Southern swing through Asheville and Hickory. Carp entered May 13's game with Greensboro hitting .311 (28-for-90). But since then, Carp is hitting .118 (8-for-68) with nine RBI, dropping his average 83 points to .228.

· The Suns are just 4-5 against Lake County and Lexington, their main competition for the South Atlantic League North Division title. They are hitting .241 (70-for-290) against those two teams and .275 (443- for-1,610) against the rest of the league. Meanwhile, Hagerstown's ERA is 3.41 in those nine games and 3.63 against the rest of the league. They are averaging 3.4 runs per game against Lexington and Lake County while scoring at a 5.6-run clip against the rest of the league. Hagerstown is in the midst of 13 straight games with Lexington and Lake County.


· Roster transactions:

Demoted - Armand Gaerlan was sent to extended spring and will possibly become the starting second baseman at Brooklyn. Gaerlan hit .309 in 22 games with the Suns, with seven RBI and nine stolen bases in 10 tries.

Promoted - First baseman Tyler Davidson was sent to Port St. Lucie of the Florida State League. The Mets need offense and Davidson is in need of playing time.

To replace him, Jim Burt was sent from extended spring training. Burt, the Mets' 19th pick in 2004 out of Miami, hit .276 with four homers and 23 RBI with Brooklyn in the New York-Penn League.

Disabled - Dante Brinkley was placed on the seven-day disabled list on Wednesday after twisting his ankle before Tuesday's game. Brinkley has been one of the top performers in the South Atlantic League this season. The Suns will be without Brinkley during a critical four-game series at Lexington this weekend.

· Suns on the SAL leaderboard:

Brinkley - Batting: first (.382), On-base percentage: first (.500), Slugging percentage: second (.662); Grant Psomas - Batting: eighth (.321), Doubles: third (17), Slugging percentage: fifth (.583), Extra-base hits: fourth (28); Carp - Home runs: second (13), RBI: fifth (40); Carlos Gomez - Stolen bases: second (28); Sanchez - Wins: first (9), ERA: eighth (2.47); Carlos Muniz - Saves: tied fourth (11); Matt Durkin - Walks allowed: third (33).

The week ahead

The Suns will be completing the first of two crucial four-game series at Lexington today and Monday before returning on Tuesday to host the Lake County Captains. The Suns will return to Lexington on Saturday for the second set, which could very well decide the South Atlantic League North Division first-half title. On Thursday, the Suns will feature Thirsty Thursday with fireworks scheduled after Friday's game.

Bob Parasiliti covers the Hagerstown Suns for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at

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