Atlanta Braves v Detroit Tigers

Anibal Sanchez had himself a ballgame

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With all due respect to Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann, the author of a one-hit shutout against the Cincinnati Reds, Anibal Sanchez was tonight’s best pitcher. The right-hander, who signed a five-year, $80 million contract with the Tigers back in December, shut out the Braves with a franchise record 17 strikeouts over eight innings.

The Braves entered the night with the fifth-best offense in the National League averaging 4.6 runs per game with a league-best 35 home runs, but Sanchez kept the Braves’ bats silent with masterful pitching from start to finish, allowing only five hits and one walk. It also didn’t hurt that the Tigers spotted him a ten-run cushion with a four-run third and six-run fourth.

Sanchez tied Mickey Lolich’s Tigers club record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game (16) when he got Reed Johnson to strike out swinging for the second out in the eighth.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland opted to use Bruce Rondon in the ninth rather than allow Sanchez to finish his masterpiece. However, Sanchez was 121 pitches, so it is justifiable.

The last pitcher to strike out 17 or more batters was Brandon Morrow, who tossed a one-hit shut-out with 17 punch-outs against the Tampa Bay Rays on August 8, 2010. Others to do it in the 2000’s include Johan Santana (2007), Ben Sheets (2004), Randy Johnson (twice in 2002, once in 2001), Curt Schilling (2002), and Pedro Martinez (2000).

Reid Brignac is trying to become a switch hitter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Reid Brignac #4 of the Atlanta Braves poses on photo day at Champion Stadium on February 26, 2016 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
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Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.

I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.

I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.

As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.

There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.

Video: Andrelton Simmons makes a heads-up play to catch Carlos Asuaje off first base

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 03:  Andrelton Simmons #2 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 3, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
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Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.

With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.