FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Twins right-hander Anibal Sanchez, who is competing for a spot in the rotation after signing with the club on Feb. 20, looked sharp in his spring debut against the split-squad Red Sox in Minnesota's 3-2 loss on Tuesday night at Hammond Stadium.Sanchez, who signed a $2.5
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Twins right-hander Anibal Sanchez, who is competing for a spot in the rotation after signing with the club on Feb. 20, looked sharp in his spring debut against the split-squad Red Sox in Minnesota's 3-2 loss on Tuesday night at Hammond Stadium.
Sanchez, who signed a $2.5 million contract with $500,000 guaranteed, tossed two perfect frames on what was his 34th birthday. Sanchez threw 33 pitches, with his fastball registering from 88-92 mph, while mixing in several breaking pitches and changeups. He's in the rotation mix with candidates such as Phil Hughes and Adalberto Mejia, both of whom have thrown two scoreless innings this spring as well.
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"I felt good," Sanchez said. "Every pitch was working good. The one thing I've worked on during the offseason and here is command. I feel like I did a good job locating to both sides today."
Sanchez led the Amdrican League with a 2.57 ERA in 2013 and followed it up with a 3.43 ERA in '14, but he has posted a combined 5.67 ERA since. Sanchez, though, possesses plus-control and struck out 104 batters in 105 1/3 innings last season. But he's looking to limit the long ball after giving up a combined 85 homers over the last three years, which ranks as the fourth-highest total in baseball over that span.
"I'm trying to get back to normal, rotating and feeling comfortable," Sanchez said. "I'm not worrying about what is going to happen. I'm just trying to throw it in the strike zone. I watched a lot of video in the offseason of 2012, '13 and '14, when things were going really good. I've been working on my mechanics and brought it into the game today."
The Twins are encouraging Sanchez to throw more offspeed pitches because he still has strikeout stuff. Opposing batters hit just .125 with a .188 slugging percentage against his splitter last season, but .337 with a .579 slugging percentage against his fastball, per Statcast™
"He's listening to input about his game and his pitches and seems to work better," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "We saw a little bit of everything. It was a nice outing."
Sanchez is battling with Hughes and Mejia for the fourth spot in the rotation with the Twins likely to open the year with four starters. There's a chance Sanchez or Hughes could start out in the bullpen as a long reliever, which is the role that Sanchez opened with last year in Detroit. But Sanchez said he's not looking that far ahead.
"I learned early in life to worry about the things I can control," Sanchez said. "It's not my decision. I'm not going to put extra pressure on myself for something I can't control. All I can do is pitch and throw the ball well. So I don't worry about that."
Right-hander Jose Berrios, who is a top candidate to start on Opening Day against the Orioles on March 29, started Tuesday's game. He threw a scoreless inning, but struggled with his command, needing 32 pitches to get through the first. His fastball mostly ranged from 92-95 mph, but he fell behind four of the five hitters he faced and wasn't helped by an error from shortstop Jorge Polanco.
"There was some good, but it didn't look like he had the best feel," Molitor said. "But it's Day 1; I don't worry about it too much."
• Gabriel Moya, who is competing for a spot in the bullpen as a lefty reliever, threw a perfect sixth inning with two strikeouts. He gave up a solo homer on Saturday against the Orioles. Jake Reed and John Curtiss, who are also competing for bullpen spots, each threw a scoreless frame.
• Right-hander Michael Pineda, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery in July, is throwing from 75 feet on flat ground. Pineda was previously throwing from 60 feet. The Twins remain hopeful he'll be able to return by September.
• Right-hander Trevor May, coming off Tommy John surgery in March, has begun to incorporate changeups into his 35-pitch bullpen sessions. His next step is to mix in curveballs and sliders, which is scheduled for next week. May is targeting a return in late May or early June.
The Twins have their first split-squad action of the spring on Wednesday, with right-hander Aaron Slegers starting against the Rays at Hammond Stadium and lefty Stephen Gonsalves starting against the Astros in West Palm Beach.
The matchup against Tampa Bay will feature a pair Grapefruit League debuts, as third baseman Miguel Sano, who is coming off November surgery to place a titanium rod in his left shin, and first baseman Joe Mauer will see their first action.
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.