Starting pitching stepping up

It’s hard to draw too much from early exhibition game starts. But so far, so good when it comes to Florida’s starting pitchers.

Anibal Sanchez was effective in his two-inning stint on Monday in a 6-3 win over the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium.

Sanchez gave up a solo homer to Lance Berkman, but the way he was throwing the ball was encouraging. His fastball was regularly at 92 mph, and he topped out at 93 mph at a time pitchers are building up arm strength.

“Anibal Sanchez threw some very good pitches,” manager Edwin Rodriguez said. “I think he hung two breaking balls. But other than that, Anibal Sanchez was very good. He was hitting his spots.”

Sanchez said he objective was to concentrate on first-pitch strikes.

“I got behind a couple of batters,” the right-hander said. “I was just working on keeping the ball down. My changeup was working good today. My curveball was a little bit off. My fastball had good location.”

Sanchez’s solid start followed up a strong two-inning performance on Sunday by Javier Vazquez, who retired all six batters he faced against the University of Miami.

Because Vazquez’s velocity dipped in 2010 when he was with the Yankees, his arm strength is being closely monitored in Spring Training.

Vazquez was clocked at 88 mph on Sunday, and that’s where he was regularly throwing a year ago in New York.

The team has no cause for alarm because Vazquez is still building up his arm strength, which takes several weeks in Spring Training. 

More than velocity, the team was impressed with the movement on his pitches, and the veteran’s ability to change speeds. In his 14th big league season, Vazquez likely will rely on pitching savvy in 2011.

Vazquez needed 21 pitches, with 15 strikes to retired the side in order twice on Sunday. To get some extra work, he threw another 15 pitches in the bullpen.

– Joe Frisaro

 

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