heritage and stats are noteworthy, but Brian Sanches probably is
most proud of the determination it took to reach the majors.
only American Indian in the National League has the lowest ERA in
reliever Brian Sanches is proud of his heritage and pleased with
his success. But what's even more gratifying to him has been his
perseverance, reaching the majors when there were many times he
wanted to give up.
were countless times where I thought enough was enough, how much
can a person take of this?" said Sanches, who turns 31 on Saturday
and spent most of his professional career bouncing around the minors.
"But I'd step back and regroup and keep inching along."
it's in his blood.
is believed to be one of only three players in the majors classified
as American Indian. The others are Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury and
the New York Yankees' Joba Chamberlain.
who hails from Texas, is part of the small and obscure Caddo tribe.
has dressed up in tribal costume for annual pow-wows and proudly
checks the box on registration forms proclaiming him as American
Baseball Almanac lists 50 full-blooded American Indian players who
have played in the majors over the years. Seven of them are nicknamed
"Chief." Two of them -- Chief Bender and Zack Wheat -- are in the
Hall of Fame.
safe to say that Sanches probably won't be headed for the Hall when
his career is finished. He didn't reach the majors until he was
26 and has only four victories.
seems like my whole career I've had to work a little more than others,"
Sanches said. "It seems like it's always taken me a little bit longer
to kind of -- I hate to say it -- `get it."
who attended Lamar University in Texas, was a second-round draft
pick of the Kansas City Royals in 1999. But he said his value probably
was never supposed to be a second-rounder," he said. "I was never
supposed to go play college. I didn't get drafted in high school
high. I was raw."
one point in his minor-league career, Sanches almost was finished.
was stalled for so many years (three) at Double A Wichita (Kan.)
-- part of the Royals' farm system -- that he said he would have
saved money had he bought a house there instead of renting an apartment.
wasn't until he landed in the Phillies organization that his fortunes
changed. One of his minor-league pitching coaches, Rod Nichols,
ordered wholesale changes to his delivery.
need to change things, otherwise this is going to be the end," Sanches
said he remembered Nichols telling him once.
changed his delivery and perfected a split-fingered fastball.
pitch, I really believe, is what got me to the big leagues," he
had brief stints with the Phillies and Nationals before the Marlins
signed him over the offseason.
was so impressive during spring training that he remained on the
roster until the very end. In fact, he was the last player cut.
was kind of gut-wrenching," Sanches said. "I've never been that
far. I had never lasted the entire spring training, and it was close."
told his wife, Kylie, who was eight months' pregnant at the time,
that he was thankful. But he also told her that he might cry no
matter the outcome, whether the club kept him or cut him.
the one hand I'd be so happy I'd cry," he said. "On the other, I'd
be so disappointed that I might cry, because I had never been that
close before with my age, and I've been through a lot."
Marlins cut him, but they didn't forget him.
June, they promoted him from Triple A New Orleans, and Sanches has
done nothing to disappoint. He has given up only three runs in 28
1/3 innings. His 0.95 ERA is the lowest among all major-league pitchers
with at least 25 innings thrown this season.
one of the only runs he gave up was a home run by Ellsbury at Fenway
Park in June.
Saturday, Sanches was summoned from the bullpen in the second inning
when Burke Badenhop was knocked out early. Sanches pitched 3 1/3
scoreless innings, striking out six and preserving the bullpen for
the rest of the series against the Cubs.
Badenhop going on the 15-day disabled list Sunday with a sore neck,
Sanches was tapped by Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez to be the long-relief
man, for the time being at least.
has been up and down many times.
think you've got it, and then you get sent back to the minors,"
Sanches said. "There have been a handful of times when I thought,
the moment, though, Sanches is feeling just fine.