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Ex-catcher Sanchez makes pitch for Brewers 'pen

PHOENIX -- Jesus Sanchez has two things working in his favor as he bids for a spot in the Brewers' bullpen: a mid-90s fastball, and an appreciation for how difficult it is to hit it.

Sanchez batted .206 over four seasons in the Yankees and Phillies systems before converting from catching to pitching in 2009. He took to the new role immediately, posting a 3.44 ERA in 26 Class A starts his first year and a 2.99 ERA in 22 starts the following year, including his first career complete game. He signed with the Brewers as a Minor League free agent for 2011 and moved midway through the year to relief, a role he filled ably in 2012 to the tune of a 1.63 ERA and 11 saves in 52 appearances between Double-A Huntsville and Triple-A Nashville.

On Saturday, Sanchez pitched a perfect ninth inning against the A's for his first Cactus League save.

"He's got a strong arm, and I really like his delivery," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "It's compact, he's got a short arm stroke which [means] the ball gets on hitters a little better. I was just asking the guys about his breaking ball, and he's got a real good one. He just needs to be more consistent with it."

That makes sense for a player with only four years of pitching under his belt. Sanchez said he throws a four-seam fastball in the 93-94-mph range, hitting 96 on occasion last season, plus a slider, a changeup and a new two-seam fastball suggested this spring by pitching coach Rick Kranitz.

He's not the first converted catcher to pitch in Brewers camp. Dave Bush switched to closing games at Wake Forest University and eventually made it as a Milwaukee starter from 2006-10. He's still pitching as a non-roster invitee with the Blue Jays.

Sanchez is a long shot for the Brewers' Opening Day roster, though general manager Doug Melvin is fond of saying that everybody with a uniform is in the running. Sanchez has been in a big league camp before, with the Phillies.

"Still, the first game, you're a little bit nervous," he said. "I treat it just like an outing during the season so I get that focus and concentration. If you don't take it seriously, you don't get 100 percent out of it."