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):
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.