Left-hander Jonathan Sanchez’s nightmarish tenure with the Royals finally ended Tuesday, not long after a cascade of boos rained down on him in his last start Monday, boos that rivaled in intensity those delivered at Kauffman Stadium toward Robinson Cano at the Home Run Derby.
The Royals designated Sanchez for assignment, less than 24 hours after he was rocked for seven runs in just 1 1/3 innings in a loss to the Mariners on Monday night. Sanchez departs with a 1-6 record – his only win came on April 8 – and a cover-your-eyes 7.76 ERA.
Sanchez now will have 10 days to either sign with another club, accept an assignment to Class AAA Omaha, or opt to become a free-agent.
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The Royals, finally, simply had no choice but to release Sanchez, who had become a verbal punching bag for fans and the media in the last two months.
“We just felt that the change was necessary at this time,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said Tuesday. “We felt right before the All-Star break he was throwing the ball better. And actually, he threw the ball (Monday) better and cut loose better.
“But we just felt it was time. It was required at this point in time. He’s a terrific human being. I know he was wearing it internally. It was very bothersome for him. The pressure continued to mount. He gave us everything he had, regardless of what his body language may have been perceived. He does care a great deal.
“The results just weren’t there. The more he tried the worse it became. It’s time to deflect the situation and move forward.”
The Royals also called up left-hander Ryan Verdugo and right-hander Vin Mazzaro from Omaha on Tuesday while optioning out outfielder Jason Bourgeois.
Verdugo, acquired last winter with Sanchez from San Francisco for Melky Cabrera, started Tuesday night’s game against Seattle.
Manager Ned Yost, too, was resigned to the fact that Sanchez just wasn’t fixable anymore.
“He just wasn’t making progress,” Yost said. “There are a lot of reasons why. A lot of times it’s hard for players to change organizations, especially when he came from an organization with a lot of good pitchers and he comes over here and is expected to be at the top of the rotation. For whatever reason it didn’t work out.
“He’s still got the stuff to be a successful pitcher. His velocity was fine in the bullpen but it somehow got lost in the transition to the mound.”
Sanchez wasn’t in the Royals clubhouse on Tuesday.
“If I could fix it,” Sanchez said after Monday’s disastrous start, “I would have already. Trust me.”
Sanchez likely will go down in Royals’ lore as one of the franchise’s worst pitchers ever, ranking along with Kyle Davies and Albie Lopez, the latter of which was actually released between games of a doubleheader.
Sanchez walked 44 hitters and gave up 65 hits in 53 1/3 innings, compiling a staggering 2.04 WHIP. The Royals lost nine of his 12 starts.
Yet Moore said he didn’t really consider pulling the trigger on Sanchez prior to Monday’s start.
“Not really, just because it comes down to what your alternatives are,” Moore said. “He gave us some hope at times. We didn’t have alternatives to be honest. But it became too problematic for us and it’s time to move forward.”
Moore also indicated he won’t second-guess the trade or his scouts who recommended Sanchez.
“Every question I could possibly ask in different ways to multiple people, I have asked,” Moore said. “For what we had in terms of information and what we had economically, and opening an opportunity for Lorenzo Cain to play, it was the right baseball move. We were a better team on balance and on paper when we made that deal.
“Certainly you know that (trades) won’t all work out. You hope they do but unfortunately they don’t. It’s part of the business. You move on, you accept it. Then you look for solutions. You don’t spend a lot of time rehearsing what went wrong or analyze it. Don’t beat yourself up because this game moves very quickly. You have to continue to look for solutions. You can’t dwell on the past or get stuck on it.”
As for solutions to the rotation?
“Everett (Teaford) is one of them,” Moore said. “Will Smith has pitched well since he got sent down. He pitched a terrific game for us in Cleveland and not so good the next time against Minnesota. We’ll continue to look. There are candidates within (the organization) down at Triple-A. There are candidates within in the bullpen. We’ll get it right at some point in time.”
Moore also hinted that he wouldn’t mind seeing Sanchez accept the assignment to Omaha.
“I hope so. I hope he does,” Moore said. “We still believe in him. I can see the things that frustrate the fan base with him. But I’d love to have him in Omaha and let him work through some things. Let’s put it this way: If he were just released from another organization, we’d be pursuing him to go to Triple-A.”