When will Sixto Sanchez pitch in a spring game? Mattingly breaks down the Marlins’ plan

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Jordan McPherson
·3 min read
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The Miami Marlins’ first four spring training games have come and gone, and their top prospect has yet to take the field.

Right-handed pitcher Sixto Sanchez, a consensus top-25 prospect in Major League Baseball, likely won’t see action in live Grapefruit League games for at least another week as the Marlins ease him into his routine.

Sanchez, ranked as high as No. 6 by Baseball America and also viewed as a top-15 prospect by both ESPN (No. 11) and MLB Pipeline (No. 15), was delayed getting to spring training due to visa issues in the Dominican Republic. He didn’t join camp until Feb. 22 — five days after pitchers and catchers began workouts.

As a result, Sanchez was not part of the Marlins’ first pod of spring training games. Daniel Castano and Nick Neidert each threw two innings on Sunday. Sandy Alcantara was the starter Monday, Pablo Lopez on Tuesday and Eleiser Hernandez on Wednesday.

Following the team’s off day Thursday, Trevor Rogers and Neidert will throw Friday, Alcantara and Castano will take the mound Saturday, and Lopez makes his second start Sunday.

Sanchez, meanwhile, threw a pair of bullpen sessions during the past week, most recently Tuesday. Marlins manager Don Mattingly said he will need to throw at least one — potentially two — live batting practice sessions before he takes the mound in a live spring training game.

“We’re really happy with where Sixto is at right now,” Mattingly said. “Obviously he had a little delay getting in, but he had been throwing. We had video of all his sides during the winter and conversations with [pitching coach] Mel [Stottlemyre Jr.] and Sixto. So we’re happy with where Sixto’s at, where his arm’s at and what he looks like in his pens.”

Sanchez made his long-awaited major-league debut with the Marlins during the shortened 2020 season. He made nine starts, including two in the playoffs, and posted a 3.64 ERA with 41 strikeouts against 16 walks through 47 innings.

Right now, Sanchez is projected as one of four pitchers expected to be in the Marlins’ rotation to begin the season along with Alcantara, Lopez and Hernandez. One of Rogers, Neidert, Braxton Garrett and Castano will likely get the fifth spot. The Marlins also signed veteran lefty and Hialeah native Gio Gonzalez to a minor-league deal with an invite to spring training.

Sanchez’s high-octane fastball which eclipses 100 mph paired with a plus changeup and an above average slider and curveball give him all the tools to be a potential ace.

But consistency will be Sanchez’s primary need for improvement as he continues his major-league career. He struggled against teams the second and third time around and let mistakes from previous games linger into his next start.

“The first time you face a team, you start giving your best to them,” Sanchez said earlier in spring training. “The second time, you have to start making some changes. The same with the third time. What I normally do is just start working on those adjustments. That way you can get ahead when you face them again.”

Mattingly added: “It seemed like he kind of just played off one game into the next [last season] instead of staying with how he wanted to attack guys. If they jumped his fastball the first game, he may go earlier with his off speed and not throw as many fastballs. Just kind of back and forth like that instead of just attacking the way he wanted to attack.”

Sanchez also has the luxury of Alcantara’s mentorship. Alcantara is making a concerted effort to tutor Sanchez this spring training to help him maximize his potential.

“We have a great relationship,” Sanchez said. “I really like to receive advice from Sandy. He always talks to me and tells me to keep my head up high, to keep working hard every day. It’s really good to have conversations with him and have him really close to me.”