Sanchez Ejected in 1st, Walker Hurt as Pirates Lose 9-1

Jonathan Sanchez

Jonathan Sanchez has allowed 16 runs in 11.1 innings. Photo credit: David Hague

If Jonathan Sanchez has made his final appearance with the Pittsburgh Pirates, what a way to go out.

Home run, home run, single, hit by pitch, ejection.

Ejecting Jonathan Sanchez because you think he was throwing at a batter’s head on purpose is like yelling at a cloud for raining on you. Occupational hazard, friends. But ejected he was for hitting Allen Craig without a warning. Manager Clint Hurdle bursted from the dugout screaming mad, madder than I have ever seen him, and Tim Timmons tossed him in short order.

All that didn’t necessarily end the game for the Pirates from a statistical standpoint. Win probability said they still had a 20-percent chance. Really, the goal became to simply get through the game with as few tired arms as possible and a win would be a pleasant surprise. No surprises went down. Carlos Beltran ended up with two homers and Craig knocked in three runs for a 9-1 Cardinals win.

Here was the last pitch for Sanchez, gif’d for your viewing pleasure by HardballTalk’s Bill Baer. It made Sanchez the first Pirates pitcher to leave the game without recording an out since Ross Ohlendorf in 2010 (who got hurt):

Jonathan Sanchez hits Allen Craig

Courtesy: Bill Baer/NBC HardballTalk

Acting manager Jeff Banister used three of the weaker arms in the bullpen and put together a game: Jeanmar Gomez threw 67 pitches, Jared Hughes threw 40 and Vin Mazzaro threw 36. Common sense would dictate all three will be made unavailable Saturday, Gomez for the rest of the weekend.

If Neal Huntington wants to add another pitcher, Mazzaro (who gave up five hits and four runs to seven hitters) or Hughes could be optioned for Bryan Morris, who has not pitched for Indianapolis since Wednesday.

The other possibility is to end the Jonathan Sanchez experiment — for good. We’ll get to that in a moment.

McCutchen and Walker Subbed Out

There were two other removals of interest Friday night: Andrew McCutchen was taken out in a fifth-inning double-switch, and Neil Walker left after a hard slide into second base in the eighth inning.

McCutchen looked upset about being removed by Banister, and walked slowly off the field. He is 1-for-18 so far on the road trip and giving him some time to think about that in the dugout with the Pirates down 5-1 isn’t a huge shocker. Still, it’s a surprising decision from someone who is not the manager.

Walker’s injury came on the only real chance the Bucs had to strike for multiple runs and make it a game. Reliever Mitchell Boggs walked him to load the bases, then lefty Randy Choate came in to face Pedro Alvarez, who represented the tying run. On the seventh pitch of the at-bat, Alvarez grounded into a double play and Walker hurt himself trying to break it up. Brandon Inge replaced him at second base.

Walker suffered a cut on his right hand and had to get six stitches, as reported by Michael Sanserino of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The Pirates’ second baseman will likely miss a few games. If it were longer than that, we might have seen a healthy dose of Jordy Mercer. Instead, my guess is we can expect Inge and John McDonald at second over the next couple days. Feel the excitement!

What to do with Jonathan Sanchez?

Well first, let’s look at what Sanchez has done in his last four starts:

  • April 10 at Arizona: 3.1 IP, 8 H, 9 ER, 4 BB, 2 K, 2 HR. He left in the fourth with the Pirates down six runs
  • April 16 vs. St. Louis: 2 IP, 2 ER, but it didn’t go down in the books because the game was postponed
  • April 21 vs. Atlanta: 3 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, where he got swings-and-misses but threw 74 pitches
  • Friday night at St. Louis: 0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 HR before the ejection

You don’t need me to tell you Sanchez didn’t have his command Friday night when he gave up two home runs in 11 pitches, then almost hit a guy in the head. (But I told you anyway. Ha. Ha.)

Sanchez’s seemingly inevitable replacement, Francisco Liriano, just struck out eight hitters and gave up one run in a Triple-A rehab start. The path of least resistance is to just swap Liriano into the rotation now, but you don’t want to rush him if the goal is to make sure he’s ready for the last five months.

We could see Jeanmar Gomez make a spot start before Liriano takes the slot. Keep in mind he was a starter with the Cleveland Indians for the last three years. If the Pirates want Sanchez out of the rotation right away, I could see such a scenario. Gomez has an early 2.63 ERA despite giving up three runs Friday upon being pressed into duty.

Maybe Sanchez does make one start if the Pirates put more stock into a decent spring than they do in the 12.71 ERA over four official regular season starts. But no matter what, Jonathan Sanchez is not long for this rotation. Since the start of 2011, he is the proud owner of a 6.19 ERA, a 1.75 WHIP and 1.24 K/BB ratio. His stuff is still evident, but the ability to make Major League starts is not.

Using him as a left-handed reliever may be a way to recoup some of the sunk costs, but what how is he any different from Justin Wilson? It may be the end of the line for Jonathan Sanchez. Boy, what a crazy end.

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James Santelli

James covers the Pirates beat for Pirates Prospects. He is a Broadcast Journalism student at USC and has written for such outlets as, Pittsburgh Magazine and the official websites of the Los Angeles Clippers and Pittsburgh Penguins. James previously covered the Pirates for Pittsburgh Sports Report. He also broadcasts play-by-play for the USC Trojans baseball team and was awarded the 2013 Chick Hearn Memorial Scholarship and Allan Malamud Scholarship. James dispenses puns at his Twitter account (@JamesSantelli) where he promises to write in first-person. Google

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  • Stephen Brooks

    I was a fan of Sanchez and a believer in the comeback, but this is worse than the Matt Morris experience. Please, end the misery now. DFAing him now and calling up Morris would be the first of four moves the Bucs should make before June 1. The other 3:

    Bring up Liriano (send down Hughes)
    Bring up Contreras (send down Mazzaro)
    Bring up Mercer (DFA McDonald)

    Start Mercer at SS, make Barmes your defensive replacement. Now you’ve addressed the four weakest spots on the 25-man and probably added a couple of wins over the course of the season.

    • Fred Langford

      Umps feel they own the game now. They own it maybe…but they don’t understand it. A warning would have been the right thing. Sanchez could have gone lower and inside maybe. Regardless…he’s got no business being on the team. The 3 choices that still are bugging me since they were made. Why McDonald instead of Mercer, why Tabata over Presley (I can at least stomach this one because of Tabata’s contract and it’s not like Presley is a world beater…but he is better than Jose) and Sanchez. Anyone at AAA would have been better. McPherson not being right has killed us at #5. Morton or Liriano cannot get back fast enough.

    • Fred Langford

      This is not worse than Matt Morris because at least Sanchez costs close to nothing. Matt Morris cost us 10 million and Rajai Davis…a useful leadoff hitter we pretty much have not had since the deal until Marte came along.

  • Ian Rothermund

    I would have DFA’d Sanchez before the end of the game last night. I really disagreed about his being automatically ejected. However, it was pretty obvious that the pitch in question was intentional, and he forced an already tired bullpen into early activity.

    • Fred Langford

      That’s the biggest thing. He completely blew up the pen.

  • maguro

    Mazzaro is out of options, he would have to clear waivers if the Pirates want to send him to Indy.

    • Stephen Brooks

      No huge loss.

  • jlease717

    Get Sanchez out of the organization. Stink doesn’t begin to describe it.

  • emjayinTN

    I agree that Sanchez has not delivered what was advertised in Spring Training. There were no other options and he was at the right spot at the right time. Liriano pitched 5 innings on the 25th, 79 pitches/52 strikes. If brought up, he would be ready on Tuesday in Milwaukee. We have off days on May 2 and May 6, so my recommendation would be to hold him until after the off day of May 2 and let him get his first start at PNC on the home stand. The way things are going, we are going to wear out the bullpen on this road trip so bringing up a guy for a spot start would be the best option.

  • ianmonk

    You DFA Sanchez. There is no way he can be used out of the bullpen. Hughes has been disappointing also, I’m not sure if he has made the adjustments to the league adjusting to him or its simply not repeating his delivery as Searage says. He seems to have gone way deeper into counts this year. It sucks but I still don’t see room for Mercer, how many options does he have left anyways? I still hope he gets his shot this year and I think he would help this team but, I don’t see Barmes being a defensive replacement given what he’s paid. As someone said above Contreras, Liriano and Morton can’t get here soon enough. Morton hitting 97, with a live sinker? Filthy, can’t wait.

    • Fred Langford

      Bryan Morris and Duke Welker are ready anytime with Victor Black almost ready so I am not that concerned about the pen though. You hate to have to burn them as much as we have so far but we do have some depth.

      • Ian Rothermund

        It would be nice for the pen a few times through the year if they just take turns 15-day dl’ing the most overworked guys, then call up Welker, Morris, and even Black to get a bit of a tryout. You can make up anything to state the reason for the dl stint. I’m a personal fan of “arm fatigue.”

  • jamminjoe66

    No room for Mercer. You’ve got to be either kidding or related to one of the Clint’s. Barmas should have been released last year. He needs to get on with his life’s work as a little league hitting coach

  • impliedi

    I think you’re going to see Josh Harrison come up before you see Jordy Mercer.

  • leadoff

    IMO, they did the right thing in giving Sanchez his chance, If Morton, McPherson, Lirano, Karstens were healthy, count them (4), Sanchez would not have made the team. 4 pitchers had to have health issues for him to get his chance, that is a lot of problems before the season even started.
    As far as Walker, he has a cut on his knuckle no damage to anything important, but they probably will hold him out for a week or two, I hate to say this, but back in the day, he would have been playing today. The Pirates have a lot of options for this situation, we should find out soon what they are going to do.
    One thing is for sure they have about 3 guys in the bullpen that can’t pitch for a couple of days and no starters going more than 6 innings, might want to release Sanchez and bring up 3 pitchers from Indy.

  • leadoff

    After watching the Brewers a bit lately, I would say that the Pirate pitching staff will be going from the frying pan into the fire, I think the Pirates are in big trouble for about a week, hope I am wrong, they still have to play the games on the field.
    The Brewers just seem to me to have too many Pirate killers on the roster. We got a chance to still win a couple in St.Louis, hope we do.

  • ianmonk

    Yep, I’m Clint Barmes. I want Jordy Mercer called up to take playing time away from me.

  • leadoff

    Still can’t figure out why the infamous 2-1 switch removing McCutchen, this team is just 2-1 happy. Cutch was not the only upset about that move.

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