PHOENIX Second baseman Freddy Sanchez, his career derailedby shoulder and back surgeries, still hasnt given up on playing for the Giantsthis season.
Thats right. This season. As in 2012.
The three-time All-Star second baseman and 2006 NL batting champion hasnt played sinceJune 10, 2011, when he dislocated his right shoulder while diving for a groundball. He never made it out of spring training this season because of ongoingshoulder issues, and then back surgery in July to address a compressed nerve.
But Sanchez continues to work out daily at the Giants complexin nearby Scottsdale, hell compete with prospects in instructional league whengames begin on Monday, and although its an unlikely goal, he has an eye towardmaking himself an option off the bench for the Giants down the stretch.
Theres obviously no room right now and everybody is doinggreat, so I realize its a tough situation, Sanchez told me by phone onFriday. Ryan Theriot, Joaquin Arias, Marco Scutaro, all those guys have beenthere and are playing great. Sometimes you cant mess with that.
But my goal was to always come back this year. If I can bea bat off the bench, or help in any way, I want to be there.
Sanchez, 34, only played in 60 games after signing atwo-year, 12 million extension following the Giants World Series championshipseason in 2010. Sanchez had several key hits during that title run, none biggerthan his two-out, two-strike, ninth-inning single off Atlantas Craig Kimbrelin Game 3 of the NL Division Series; later on, Sanchez became the first playerin history to double three times in his first World Series game.
All parties expected Sanchez to begin the season as thestarting second baseman this year, but he responded slowly following surgery tostabilize his right shoulder capsule. Then he required back surgery July 5 fora nerve issue that robbed him of leg strength.
My quad just atrophied, said Sanchez, who tried rehabbingit for three weeks with no improvement. There are times Id try to walk and itwould shut down on me. But the recovery has gone a lot better than we couldvehoped for. The nerve just needed time to regrow, and running is the only issue.I had my best day running on Wednesday.
Sanchez is hitting in the cage, playing catch and goingthrough his daily rehab protocol at the Giants complex. Hes a free agentafter this season, and while he is quick to express confidence that hell beable to play second base again, that isnt his current ambition.
Thats what Im fighting for, man, he said. Just pinchhit here or there.
But why bother?
Here was his answer:
Ill never forget (Giants GM) Brian Sabean, after Idislocated my shoulder, he said, I wouldnt bet against him coming back,Sanchez said. Unfortunately, it was what it was. But the fact he believed inme and had faith in me Id keel over before Id stop trying to come back. Iowe the Giants everything. The fans, the organization, everyone has been sogood to me. They traded for me. They signed me to an extension. I couldnt comeback for them the first time, but Im trying to do it now.
So, is it likely?
No, but you never rule anything out, Giants head athletictrainer Dave Groeschner said. Hes just trying to get better. Its been a longyear for him. In typical Freddy fashion, hes doing everything he can to pushforward. Hes recovered really well.
Sanchez will be examined by Giants orthopedist Dr. KenAkizuki on Thursday and hopes to begin playing in instructional league gameswith minor league prospects when action begins in 100-degree heat on Monday.
I give him a lot of credit because hes worked reallyhard, Groeschner said. He couldve slow-played it, but hes pretty determinedto push and try to get back. Its easy to say, Ill rest until the offseason.He wants to be a player again.
Its highly unlikely. But we still have three weeks left,and maybe three weeks after that. Were just trying to get him better, whetherhe plays for the Giants again or another team.
There is one more factor driving Sanchez. Well, 2.29 millionof them, actually.
Thats the number of All-Star votes that Sanchez received tofinish fourth among NL second basemen.It was fodder for comedy and columnists at the time. It meant much moreto Sanchez.
That, right there, is what made me fall in love with SanFrancisco, Sanchez said. You talk about fan loyalty how can you beat that?