Sixto and Gio: Marlins veteran, rookie see game-type action on Monday
Monday was an eventful one for the Miami Marlins, with rookie Sixto Sanchez making his first Grapefruit League start, and veteran Gio Gonzalez pitched in a simulated game
By Joe Frisaro @ManOn2nd
WEST PALM BEACH — A couple of prominent pitchers for the Miami Marlins took the mound on Monday at two separate sites and settings, and both passed their respective, initial Spring Training checkpoints.
Sixto Sanchez, the hard-throwing 22-year-old, made his Grapefruit League debut at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches against the Houston Astros. The hard-throwing rookie tossed 1 2/3 innings before handing the ball over to James Hoyt after 31 pitches.
About 90 minutes before the Marlins faced the Astros, on Field 2 on the backfields at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex in Jupiter, veteran Gio Gonzalez threw two innings, and 32 pitches in a simulated game. Facing prospects who are no longer in big league camp, the 35-year-old left-hander got in two innings of work.
What this means for the Marlins is two important starters are now in the mix for an Opening Day rotation spot. Whether they will be built up enough to be with the club on Day 1 is a decision the organization will ultimately make.
While being part of an Opening Day is the first goal of players in camp, in the cases of Sanchez and Gonzalez, it’s not that big of a deal if they break camp or get slotted into the rotation at some point in the regular season.
Bottom line is the Marlins are going to need them both, at some point. Gonzalez’s status is a little different than Sanchez’s, because he is a non-roster invitee, meaning he isn’t on the 40-man roster. He’d have to be added, when it’s his time.
Sanchez is regarded as a future ace.
“I felt really good for my first Spring Training game in 2021,” Sanchez said via an interpreter. “I was going out there with the same plan as always. In the first inning, I missed my spot a few times. Same thing happened in the second.”
Based on how he looked on Monday, Gonzalez looks like he will be a nice veteran addition, for whenever his number is called.
In his first inning of work, Gonzalez threw 16 pitches. But it was his second inning that he appeared to kick it up a notch. The sharpness of his pitches improved, and he was spinning some effective breaking pitches.
Gonzalez is a 13-year MLB veteran, he knows how to prepare.
Sanchez, meanwhile, is in a different situation. The right-hander is a huge part of the organization’s future. He is a handle-with-care prospect.
Currently, he is Miami’s top prospect, and regarded as one of the top prospects in the sport.
Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. made a second-inning mound visit, and told the right-hander they didn’t want to push him too much in his first spring start.
Sanchez also will have his innings monitored, and the organization has a plan to regulate his innings, with the hope of having their star rookie available in September.
Gonzalez is a safety net for Sanchez, or any other young starter the Marlins may not feel is entirely ready.
The fact Gonzalez and Sanchez each threw on Monday lines them up to keep moving forward. That’s something to pay attention to, when they both again pitch.
Sanchez induced three ground ball outs, and gave up a leadoff single to Jose Altuve, who swatted the first pitch into center field. Sanchez was challenged in the second inning. Kyle Tucker, who is from Tampa, grinded out an 11-pitch at-bat, and singled to center off a 99 mph fastball.
Sanchez’s fastball reached 100 mph twice in that showdown.
Yuli Gurriel walked to make it two on and no outs, but Sanchez got Aledmys Diaz to bounce into a 5-4-3 double play. It was the second ground-ball double play Sanchez induced.
For Sanchez and Gonzalez, Monday was a chance to face hitters in either a main field or backfield game situation. Next is to keep building up. They should be ready for three or four innings.