Extra Baggs: Sanchez's bat can't offset defensive issues

Extra Baggs: Sanchez's bat can't offset defensive issues
August 18, 2013, 3:15 pm
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Hector Sanchez is hitting .222 in 59 plate appearances this season. (AP)

There have been 49 catcher’s interference calls in the Giants' San Francisco era and Hector Sanchez has the last four of them in 590 innings. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

MIAMI – Pablo Sandoval isn’t the only Giants player with conditioning issues. Manager Bruce Bochy wants Hector Sanchez to get serious about his weight and strength this winter, too.

And Sanchez acknowledged to reporters that fatigue played a part in his rough game Sunday, when he allowed a wild pitch to score a runner from second base in a 6-5 loss to the Miami Marlins.

[INSTANT REPLAY: Giants blow chance to sweep Marlins]

Sanchez doesn’t plan to play winter ball in Venezuela this offseason. But that doesn’t mean he won’t be tasked with working hard, Bochy said.

“More than anything, what’s vital for Hector is to keep himself in playing shape,” Bochy said. “His shoulder became an issue and he missed time. Just take care of himself this winter and get stronger, keep the weight off. That’s important for this kid.

“Sometimes we forget how young he is. This is the time for him to get in a routine, keep himself in shape.”

Sanchez, 23, made it to the big leagues in a hurry because of his switch-hitting bat, even though it’s apparent to anyone who watches a few innings that he remains very unrefined behind the plate.

His offensive potential was reached on this road trip, when he hit three-run home runs on consecutive days – including one off the bench with two strikes and two out in the ninth to rescue the Giants at Nationals Park.

[REWIND: Hector Sanchez proves to Giants that not all is lost]

Even amid his defensive struggles Sunday, he had two hits and walked twice.

But he also was charged with catcher’s interference when the Marlins’ Justin Ruggiano knocked the glove off his hand with his swing. Oddly, Madison Bumgarner’s pitch actually proceeded to hit Sanchez’s bare hand. He was in pain but remained in the game.

As Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles researched, there have been 49 catcher’s interference calls in the club’s San Francisco era – a rate of one per season, or thereabouts – and Sanchez has the last four of them in 590 innings.

Keep your glove back a little further, kid. It’s not like that lesson is unteachable. Turning around a 96 mph fastball is something different, and Sanchez has shown the ability to do that. So the Giants still believe he can be an asset.

But for a team that won two World Series with pitching and defense, and expects to return to that template in the very near future, a defensively unsound backup catcher just won’t work – no matter how much he’s able to contribute in the batter’s box.

Getting and staying in top form will be one way Sanchez can cut down on his mistakes behind the plate.

What about sending him to the minors? Well, Sanchez might be able to play every day for Fresno if he returned there for a few weeks before the Grizzlies' season ends. But the Giants will be very short of 40-man roster spots soon, if they want to add Heath Hembree and maybe another player or two. And Guillermo Quiroz already was designated for assignment. Besides, it'll be easier for the major league staff to evaluate and teach Sanchez what he needs to learn because they can see him with their own eyes.

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It was like pulling teeth, but Hunter Pence begrudgingly acknowledged earlier over the weekend that his home run slump was frustrating him. 

When that drought finally ended after 104 at-bats with a 459-foot blast over the sculpture in center field, Pence was almost as hesitant to talk about it. He didn’t want to sound like he was expressing relief after a loss.

“The results are out of your control,” he said. “When you don’t hit one for a long time, it can be frustrating. But it doesn’t change the constant of being ready for your next at-bat and trusting it will happen. I know I hadn’t hit a home run since the break but I felt I was swinging better than the first half.”

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You wonder just what kind of hitter Brandon Crawford would be if he didn’t play half his games at AT&T Park, which is death on left-handed power.

His home run Sunday was his eighth of the season, and his sixth on the road. For his career, 12 of his 15 home runs have come away from AT&T Park.

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Just to prepare you for the inevitable: Bochy already said he plans to start Andres Torres and/or Jeff Francoeur when the Red Sox send lefties Jon Lester and Felix Doubront against them Monday and Wednesday.

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