Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times wrote a really interesting profile yesterday on Juan Sandoval, a 32-year-old reliever who has been invited to Rays’ camp. He’s trying to keep his baseball career alive despite the fact that he’s completely blind in his right eye.
Sandoval once had some promise as a pitching prospect with the Mariners, but his life changed in February of 2006. While he was out to dinner one night in his hometown in the Dominican Republic, a restaurant security guard and a drunken old man got into a scuffle which resulted in gunfire. Sandoval turned his head to look and was hit with shotgun pellets, including three in his right eye. Doctors were able to save his eye following a seven-hour surgery, but not his vision.
Sandoval actually made it back to baseball less than a year later, but he has understandably had some trouble adjusting. He has bounced around quite bit since then, spending the past two seasons in the Mexican League, but he made it on the Rays’ radar after Joel Peralta placed a call to executive vice president Andrew Friedman over the winter.
Sandoval isn’t going to make the Rays out of spring training, but he has received some rave reviews from manager Joe Maddon and could begin the season with Triple-A Durham. While you wouldn’t blame Sandoval if he had some bitterness about his hard luck, he certainly isn’t showing it.
“Being honest with you, if I could change something that happened in my life, I would not change anything,” Sandoval said. “Everything that has happened has made me the person that I am right now. And I’m a really happy person. …
“This opportunity is something I was dreaming of. And I’m here.”
Not sure how you can’t root for this guy.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.