MORE THINGS: PINSTRIPE PRIDE AND JAYS JOY

I’m getting there, I’m getting there … by tonight I hope to be caught up on these “One More Things” addendums …

YANKEES: I remember the day I met Humberto Sanchez. I was sitting in the bleachers on a backfield in Kissimmee during spring training watching the A-ball Tigers and Astros play, and happened to be sitting next to him. We began chatting and found out that not only were we both from NYC but he had grown up down the block from where my mom grew up and his brother went to the same high school from where she had graduated. He was such a nice kid, I couldn’t help but keep a special eye on him over the ensuing years.

In that time, his remarkable stuff kept him very much on the radar but injury issues coupled with the difficulty of staying in peak condition at his size probably slowed his ascent. He is a very big boy, listed at 6-6 and anywhere between 230 and 270 though he definitely looked like he’d lost some weight and was in good shape when I saw him in Arizona last month.

In 2006, he was the starting pitcher for the World Team in the All-Star Futures Game, a huge honor, and showed that stuff on a major stage. It was his best season ever, as he combined to go 10-6 with a 2.63 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 123 innings between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo for the Tigers, but an elbow injury shelved him down the stretch.

That winter, “Humbe” was dealt to the Yankees, his hometown team, in the deal for Gary Sheffield but he also underwent Tommy John surgery which kept him from suiting up in pinstripes for nearly two years. Calcifications that formed required more surgery and he didn’t return to the mound until this past summer.

Once he did, it was a race to see if he’d make it up to New York in time to get to pitch at least once in the stadium down the street from his home … and in fact he made his big league debut at Yankee Stadium on September 18, another date that ties into my own family history as it was my daughter’s 18th birthday.

Still on the comeback trail, I felt it was too early to put Sanchez “on the ladder” in our Yankees review, but he is definitely one to keep an eye on in 2009. In the meantime, you can get to know his personality a little better by reading his awesome Arizona Fall League BLOG!

BLUE JAYS: At 23 years old, it’s too early to call Jays pitcher Reidier “Ray” Gonzalez a late bloomer. But with Toronto having had seven picks in the first 88 spots in the 2007 draft, that took up a lot of slots in our 2008 season review so a few “radar” guys like Gonzalez didn’t make the official cut …

A 19th-round pick in 2005 out of junior college in Florida, the Cuban-born Gonzalez is not a big guy like Sanchez … he’s listed at 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, generally more infielder numbers than ace pitcher numbers.

But Gonzalez was very much one of the aces of the Advanced A Dunedin staff that went to the Florida State League playoffs this year. Splitting his time between relief and the rotation, he combined to go 12-4 with a 3.14 ERA, walking just 30 in 137 2/3 innings while striking out 74. In August, he had a 1.55 ERA including his lone shutout Aug. 15. He finished fifth in the organization in ERA and tied for third in wins.  

Gonzalez had posted a 3.53 ERA in 20 starts at Class A Lansing in 2007 after pitching for short-season Pulaski in 2005 and 2006. He had been dominating in his debut season with a 1.63 ERA in seven starts before a broken ankle ended his summer.  

Next up … a double dip of Jasons with the White Sox … with the Rays and Phillies additions to come next week when those organization reviews go up on the main site!

So I’ll be back blogging tonight with more more more … before heading back to Arizona on Sunday …

 

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