PITTSBURGH — The Pirates bullpen continues to be a revolving door.
After six roster moves involving relievers on Tuesday, the Pirates made two more on Wednesday, sending Edgar Santana back to Triple-A and selecting the contract of Angel Sánchez.
Given that three players had just gone up, Sánchez was surprised to see Indianapolis manager Andy Barkett’s number on his caller ID and was even more surprised that the message was the he was heading to Pittsburgh.
“I was a little surprised, like what’s going on in the big leagues right now?” Sánchez said. “There’s a lot of people going up. I have to keep my motivation up and keep trying to get better and maybe I can get a chance to go, too.”
It’s been a long road for Sánchez, who was claimed on waivers by the Pirates way back in July of 2014, nearly made it to the majors as a starter in 2015 before suffering an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery.
Now a reliever, Sánchez is back. His usual career progression — he was with Altoona and Indianapolis in 2015 before coming back to major-league Spring Training and Indianapolis in 2017 — means that he’s popular with a wide swath of the Pirates clubhouse. Gregory Polanco gave him a huge hug and Juan Nicasio also came over to chat.
Nicasio is a player that was something of a mentor for Sánchez as he worked on the transition from a starting pitcher to a reliever this spring. Nicasio did the same thing in 2016 after starting the year in the rotation.
“They put me as a reliever in the fall league and I started to feel the difference between being a reliever and a starting pitcher,” Sánchez said. “I’ve been asking questions of the pitching coaches that had experience in the bullpen and guys like Nicasio about how they do it, that way I’ve had a road to follow.”
In Pittsburgh, manager Clint Hurdle expects Sánchez to be a multi-inning option, sliding in between long reliever Steven Brault and the rest of the bullpen.
“The arm is live and the stuff, the pitch skills are in a good place,” Hurdle said. “It’s a fresh arm and an arm that can give us some volume, as well.”
Hurdle said that Santana’s demotion had more to do with the continual need for fresh arms than it did anything specific to his performance, though there is one area he’d like to see him work on.
“The initial mix of the game — ten straight fastballs — I think that’s something we can improve upon moving in,” Hurdle said. “He’s got other pitches and he and Diaz have worked before so that one was one you kind of scratch your head about. But the young man is learning.”
Gm 127 ☠️ (60-66) vs. #Dodgers (89-35)
C Stewart@MeLlamoTrevor 4.71 vs. Rich Hill 3.54
— Alan Saunders (@ASaunders_PGH) August 23, 2017
The Pirates should finally have close to a full bullpen available, with the exception of Daniel Hudson, who has thrown 30 pitches over the last two nights. … Starter Trevor Williams has just one career start against Los Angeles and he allowed eight runs in three innings on May 8. … Josh Harrison is 10-for-26 (.385) with three doubles and three homers on this homestand.