(Long Island, N.Y.) The last time baseball fans in New York caught a glimpse of Duaner Sanchez, he was packing his bags after being mercifully released by the Mets during Spring Training in 2009. The former setup man had gone from being a big part of a winning team to the waiver wire all because of a late night food run.
But now he is giving it another shot in the big city – or at least in the vicinity – by signing with the Long Island Ducks to make it back to the majors by way of the independent minor leagues. The 31-year-old split time in 2010 in the Mexican League and Can-Am Association.
“We are happy to bring Duaner and (outfielder) Sean (Smith) aboard this season,” Ducks President/General Manager Michael Pfaff said of the team’s recent acquisitions. “Their talents and experience will certainly help bolster our club.”
A veteran of nine Major League baseball seasons, Sanchez came into his own in 2006 with the Mets when he posted a 5-1 record with a 2.60 ERA. That was the last time the team qualified for the postseason and was knocked out one game from the World Series.
But it was in July of that same summer when Sanchez’s career literally came to a crossroads. While in Miami on a road trip, the right hander was taking a taxi cab to satisfy his midnight hunger pains when a drunk driver ended his season. The cab was involved in an accident and Sanchez suffered a separated shoulder.
Bitter Mets fans will point to the loss of Sanchez as a turning point when reminded that it was Aaron Heilman giving up a late inning home run in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. The middle reliever was forced into the setup role in the absence of Sanchez.
The following spring, Sanchez’s bad luck continued when he suffered a hairline fracture to the same shoulder and had to miss the whole year. The general consensus was that the previous injury weakened the shoulder and was a factor in the bone breaking.
Although he returned in 2008 (5-1, 4.32 ERA), Sanchez lost some speed and was not nearly the same pitcher as he was before the two shoulder surgeries. Former Mets GM Omar Minaya released him in March after control problems arose and his fastball didn’t reach 90 miles per hour. Sanchez ended up in San Diego and was ineffective in a short stint out west.
Can Sanchez pull it off and get back to ‘The Show?’ If he can get some zip back on his pitches, then it is a possibility. Middle relief is a supply and demand position and there is always a demand. The problem is the supply source. Teams are always looking for a low-cost answer in the bullpen and Sanchez is still young enough to be that guy.
The first step is succeeding back where he enjoyed his best days. And Sanchez is sure to call room service instead of a cab.