ST. LOUIS - Adrian Sanchez was three innings into Thursday’s game with Triple-A Syracuse when he was informed he was being pulled from the game. The 26-year-old infielder had no idea what was up, had no idea what had been learned in Washington only minutes earlier: Trea Turner had a fractured right wrist.
The Nationals needed another infielder to get to St. Louis ASAP, and so it was that Sanchez - after a full decade in the organization - learned he was getting his first call to the major leagues.
“Grateful to God, first off,” Sanchez said this afternoon, via interpreter Octavio Martinez. “And happy with the opportunity that the team is giving me.”
It’s an opportunity Sanchez might have doubted would ever come.
Signed out of Venezuela as a 16-year-old way back in 2007 - Mike Rizzo, then the Nationals assistant general manager, made the trip to Caracas to watch him along with former scouting director Dana Brown - Sanchez endured a long road to the majors. He played 156 games at low-Single-A Hagerstown, 269 games at high-Single-A Potomac, 250 games at Double-A Harrisburg and then 81 games at Syracuse.
Never during that decade was Sanchez added to the Nationals’ 40-man roster. Never was he given an invitation to big league camp, summoned only for random one-day call-ups when the club needed extra bodies for Grapefruit League games.
What allowed him to stick with it all this time?
“The strength, the discipline, my family, the power of my family, is what has brought me to this point,” Sanchez said. “And I’m very grateful to the team. I’ve been working hard. That’s the key.”
Sanchez may not see a lot of playing time while in the majors, with Stephen Drew and Wilmer Difo ahead of him on the infield depth chart, but manager Dusty Baker did say he hopes to give the rookie a start at some point in the near future to help calm the nerves.
“I didn’t know he had been in the minors that long,” Baker said. “He was pretty young (when he signed). But I liked what I saw this spring of him. He’s got probably some of the best hands in the organization. He’ll get a start here and there. You hate to put in a young guy just on a double-switch or for defense, because that’s probably more pressure on a young guy, playing defense late in a game, than it is starting a game. We’ll figure it out.”
Update: The opener of this weekend series against the Cardinals has turned into a nightmare for the Nationals, who have seen Tanner Roark get knocked out early again, Jacob Turner pour more gasoline on the fire out of the bullpen and Bryce Harper give everyone a major injury scare.
Roark lasted only three innings, once again unable to put away hitters or command his two-seamer. Roark walked five of the first 12 batters he faced, establishing a new career high for any of his major league outings. He needed a whopping 85 pitches just to finish three innings, continuing his ragged month with a fourth consecutive poor start.
Turner replaced Roark in the fourth inning and promptly gave up five more runs in rapid fashion, leaving the Nationals in an 8-1 hole.
On the bright side, Harper appears to be OK after falling hard to the ground upon legging out a first-inning grounder. At first glance, it appeared he had landed awkwardly on first base (not all that unlike Adam Eaton’s injury earlier this season that resulted in a torn ACL). On replay, it appeared the throw struck him in the left foot. Regardless, Harper remained on the ground for several minutes as Baker and trainer Paul Lessard rushed out from the dugout to check on him. Harper eventually got to his feet and has remained in the game since, but it’ll be interesting to learn afterward what exactly happened there, cause it looked bad for a while.
Update II: This was an 8-1 game after four innings, and it remained an 8-1 game after nine innings. The two sides played out the string with no other major developments. The Nats will head back to their hotel, lick their wounds, and hope for a better showing Saturday night when Gio Gonzalez faces Michael Wacha at 7:05 p.m. EDT.