Anibal joins Twins, eager to make rotation case

February 20th, 2018

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- officially joined the Twins on Tuesday, as the veteran right-hander passed his physical and signed a $2.5 million non-guaranteed contract that will see him earn $500,000 if he doesn't make the roster. It also includes $2.5 million in incentives.

Sanchez, who agreed to terms on Friday and worked out at the CenturyLink Sports Complex for three days before the move became official, was added to the 40-man roster. To make room for Sanchez, Trevor May was placed on the 60-day disabled list as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.

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Sanchez will compete for a spot in the rotation with other candidates such as Phil Hughes, and . Twins manager Paul Molitor said he's leaning toward a four-man rotation, with , Jake Odorizzi and considered locks to make the club.

"I'm happy to be here with this team," Sanchez said. "It's one of the teams that I saw a lot when I was with Detroit. I know it's a really good group. It's a really good opportunity for me."

The Twins believe Sanchez still has something left in the tank, even after struggling the past three seasons with the Tigers in which he posted a combined 5.67 ERA over 415 2/3 innings. He had a 6.41 ERA last season, but he still struck out 104 and walked 29 in 105 1/3 innings. His 21.6 percent strikeout rate was exactly the MLB average, while his 6 percent walk rate was two points better than average.

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The issue is Sanchez served up 26 homers, but the Twins believe he can cut that down by using his effective offspeed pitches more because most of the damage has come against his fastball. 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™.

"His analytics on some of the factors [our evaluators] feel are significant were a lot better than his results," Molitor said. "Obviously, the long ball bit him a lot. A lot of people think it has to do with pitch usage and some other things. But they really liked a lot of the weapons he still has. They think he got away from things that would give him a better chance to be successful."

Sanchez, who turns 34 on Feb. 27, also showed he was healthy down the stretch after a rash of injuries, including a left hamstring strain. He used his pitch mix more effectively and posted a 2.74 ERA with one homer allowed over his final four starts.

"At the end of the season was one of the parts when everything came together," Sanchez said. "From when the season started to when the season ended, it was like a really big roller coaster to me. But I finished strong."

Sanchez, who threw a bullpen session on Tuesday alongside new acquisition Odorizzi, knows he has to compete for a spot this spring, which is the same situation he found himself in last year with Detroit. He ended up starting the year in the bullpen before heading to Triple-A to get stretched out to start again.

Sanchez, who trained in Miami this offseason as his wife give birth to their son, Anibal Alejandro, on Dec. 22, isn't likely to be a bullpen candidate for the Twins this year, so he's made it a point to try to regain the effectiveness that made him a reliable starter for the Marlins and Tigers before his struggles in recent years.

"I worked a lot in the offseason to get back to normal with my mechanics without being sore," Sanchez said. "I feel good right now. Really, really good and strong. I feel healthy. This is the important thing."