Sanchez wins first base job

Second time around, Gaby Sanchez secured the spot.

The 26-year-old will be the Marlins starting first baseman.

gabystarting.jpgThe path was cleared for Sanchez on Monday when prospect Logan Morrison was reassigned to Minor League camp. Most likely, Morrison will open the season at Triple-A New Orleans, while Sanchez will experience his first Opening Day at the big league level.

A year ago, Sanchez was in a similar situation. The Miami native entered the 2009 Spring Training with an inside track to win the job. But he had an injury-plagued and inconsistent spring, and opened in Triple-A New Orleans.

That was then. With another year of Minor League seasoning under his belt, Sanchez has enjoyed a strong Spring Training.

In Grapefruit League play, Sanchez has stood out. Heading into Monday, he was batting .409 with two home runs and five RBIs in 44 at-bats. Morrison, meanwhile, finished his Grapefruit League stint with a .209 average and six RBIs in 43 at-bats.

In another roster move on Monday, the reliever Scott Strickland was reassigned to Minor League camp. The right-hander will head to New Orleans.

With Strickland out of camp, the Marlins final bullpen spot may wind up going to Seth McClung or Tim Wood. Rick VandenHurk is another possibility. But chances are VandenHurk will remain a starting pitcher, not a reliever. He will be able to do that at New Orleans. 

The question the team will ask is whether to stay with the experience of McClung or the youth of Wood. Weighing in Wood’s favor is the fact he’s on the 40-man roster. Wood hasn’t hurt his chances either, as he’s enjoyed a strong spring. In fact, he’s throwing better than McClung.

McClung, in camp on a Minor League contract, has a clause to opt out of his deal on April 1. McClung also gives flexibility because he has been a starter, long reliever, and he’s even closed in the big leagues. He is more of a multi-innings option than Wood.

Hayden Penn, who was out of options, was claimed off waivers by the Pirates on Monday.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez hinted on Sunday that Sanchez could win the first base job. Gonzalez noted that Sanchez was a catcher at the University of Miami, and for a short while in the Minor Leagues.

Sanchez could be the emergency third catcher, which means the Marlins would consider using either Ronny Paulino or John Baker as a pinch-hitter. Typically, teams shy away from using their backup catcher as a pinch-hitter.

Sanchez now provides roster flexibility.

Sanchez batted .289 with 16 home runs and 56 RBIs at New Orleans last year. He also appeared in 21 games with the Marlins, and he has 26 games of big league experience the last two years.

– Joe Frisaro

 

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