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Sanchez aims to cut down on free passes

Sanchez aims to cut down on free passes

Sanchez aims to cut down on free passes
KANSAS CITY -- Left-handed starter Jonathan Sanchez came to Kauffman Stadium on Thursday to get acquainted with his new home and his new team, the Royals.

Monday's trade that brought him from the San Francisco Giants, along with Minor League lefty Ryan Verdugo, for outfielder Melky Cabrera didn't surprise him.

"I saw it coming," Sanchez said. "It's been since I came to the big leagues in 2006 that they wanted to trade me, but nothing came out. Every year I was staying there and I thought I was going to stay there this year, too, but it was time for me to go."

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Sanchez, who'll be 29 in nine days, is counted upon to upgrade the Royals' rotation while he also reduces his tendency to issue a lot of walks. For example, in his best season, he struck out 205 batters in 2010 but also walked a National League-high 96.

That subject came up as he spent a few minutes chatting with Kansas City reporters outside the Royals' clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium.

"It's the way I pitch. As long as they don't score, I'm fine with that," Sanchez said. "I'm going to try to cut the walks down and strike out more people, but we'll see how it works. That's going to be my goal this year, walk less people and throw more innings."

Some of the walks, he suggested, just come naturally because his pitches move so much.

"It's been like that since I signed with the Giants when I was a kid," Sanchez said. "All my stuff, everything, moves, so it's kind of hard to keep my command, but I just try to keep the [pitch] count low."

His ball, apparently, has an unpredictable bend.

"It just goes both sides, it goes in and out. I've just got to throw it down the middle. It's going to move anyway," he said.

Last season, as the Giants fell from their World Series throne, Sanchez also had an off season. His record was 4-7 and he was limited to 19 games, sidetracked first by left biceps tendinitis and then by a sprained left ankle that cost him the last month and a half of the season. The ankle injury came as he was fielding a bunt in August.

"Now it's almost 100 percent back," he said.

Sanchez, drafted in the 27th round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft after four seasons at Ohio Dominican, an NAIA school in Columbus, spent his entire eight-year pro career in the Giants' organization. But he seemed content joining the Royals.

"We faced them in Spring Training and they've got a pretty good team -- good people, good organization and I'm happy to be here," he said.

He was made to feel more welcome by the assignment of uniform No. 57, his number with the Giants. Last year, the since-departed pitcher Jesse Chavez wore those digits for the Royals.

The change to the American League, of course, means no hitting for Sanchez, who was no big threat at bat but did whack an RBI triple as the Giants beat San Diego, 3-0, to win the National League West title on the last day of the 2010 season.

"I'll miss it," Sanchez said. "I always liked hitting with the guys and having fun with the bats, but I've just got to focus on pitching right now."

On the mound in that championship year, Sanchez was 13-9 with a 3.07 ERA for the Giants. That included a 4-1 record and 1.03 ERA in his seven starts over the season's last month.

The Sanchez-for-Cabrera exchange involved two players that are both coming up on free agency after next season. So that puts Sanchez in the possible position of being in Kansas City for one year and then moving on.

Even so, he said, "I hope to stay here the rest of my career, but I just want to focus on this year."

One appeal would be spacious Kauffman Stadium, known as a pitchers' ballpark. He did not pitch in Kansas City when the Giants visited for Interleague games.

"It's a pretty good ballpark for us to pitch in," Sanchez said. "The ball doesn't fly too much. We played here like two years ago and I could see it's to the pitchers' advantage."

Kansas City is also known for its summers dominated by blistering heat. Sanchez just shrugged.

"I'm from Puerto Rico, [so] I've got to like it," he said.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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