Anibal Sanchez may wind up making the Boston Red Sox regret sending him to the Marlins in the trade that brought Josh Beckett
to Boston- sooner than later. Anibal Sanchez is 7-2 so far on thirteen starts in 2006, and has helped Florida stay in the Wild Card chase in the National League. A 22 year old native of Venezuela, Anibal Sanchez has front of the rotation potential, as he proved on September 6th by tossing the first no-hitter in the majors in over two years. Anibal Sanchez made start number thirteen anything but unlucky by shutting out the Diamondbacks 2-0 in Florida. Anibal Sanchez also made the Red Sox front office’s life a little bit harder, because if he becomes a star and Beckett flops in Boston, the fans calling into the talk shows are going to take them to task.
Growing up in Maracay, Venezuela, Anibal Sanchez never dreamed he would one day throw a no-hitter in the big leagues. The six-foot tall, 180 pound right-hander had never thrown a no-hitter at any level of baseball until his gem against Arizona. Anibal Sanchez was signed as an undrafted free-agent by the Red Sox in 2001, but while pitching in the Venezuelan Summer League he suffered an elbow injury that required surgery. After Anibal Sanchez missed the whole 2003 season recuperating from his operation, he pitched in the short-season NewYork- Penn League with Lowell in 2004, where he had a 1.77 earned run average. The next year he advanced to the Wilmington Blue Rocks, a High-A ball affiliate of the Red Sox, located in Delaware. Anibal Sanchez proved to be one of Boston’s rising pitching prospects by going 6-1 with a 2.40 ERA. He was then advanced to Double A Portland, where Anibal Sanchez posted a 3.45 ERA over eleven starts for the Sea Dogs before tiring late in the season.
The Marlins and Red Sox made the Beckett deal in November of 2005, and Anibal Sanchez was sent to Florida with two other minor leaguers and shortstop Hanley Ramirez for Beckett and third baseman Mike Lowell. The deal hinged on Boston taking Lowell and his big salary, and although Lowell has been solid this season and may win a Gold Glove at third, Beckett was supposed to be the real prize. But Josh has struggled in the American League, surrendering 33 home runs so far while putting up a 14-10 record with a less than stellar 5.11 earned run average. Meanwhile, Anibal Sanchez started 2006 with the Marlins AA squad, the Carolina Mudcats. He was only 3-6 there but had a 3.15 ERA, and on June 25th he was called up to the big club to face the Yankees in the back end of a double header. Anibal Sanchez threw almost six innings of shut-out ball to get his first major league win and impressed everyone with his poise.
After two no-decisions, Anibal Sanchez won three in a row, allowing two hits in seven frames against the light-hitting Astros and Roger Clemens, and then giving up just a single base knock in seven against the Nationals, before beating the Braves. Anibal Sanchez tasted his first defeat with the Marlins when the Phillies mauled him for eight hits and six walks on July 30th. Anibal Sanchez pitched well in his next start, but lost to the Dodgers. Two more no decisions were followed by a win over Washington, six strong innings against the Brewers, a win over Milwaukee on September 1st, and finally the no-hitter against the D-Backs, the fourth in the Marlins fourteen year history. Randy Johnson had thrown the last no-hitter in baseball, in May of 2004 against the Braves, a perfect game. The time from then until Anibal Sanchez no-hit Arizona was the longest span ever between no-hitters.
Anibal Sanchez became the 19th rookie to hurl a no-hitter since 1900. He used 103 total pitches to throw the 233rd no-hitter in Major League Baseball history, walking four and striking out eight. Ironically, the last out of the game that clinched the game for Anibal Sanchez was a ground ball to shortstop Hanley Ramirez, another of the traded Red Sox. The Marlins are three games behind the Padres for the wild card in the National League as of this writing. They have rebounded from an 11-31 start to get to 70-69, the first time a team has ever been twenty games below .500 and gotten back to even in the same season. Anibal Sanchez, with his 95 mile-an-hour fastball, outstanding breaking ball, and improving change-up, has been a big part of this resurgence. Anibal Sanchez is the second Venezuelan to throw a no-hitter in the majors; Wilson Alvarez turned the trick for the White Sox against the Orioles in 1991. The Red Sox are hoping that Josh Beckett turns things around in 2007 and has a monster season, because if Anibal Sanchez maintains his fast start and becomes a stalwart in the Florida rotation, things could get dicey in Beantown.