Originally written on Pirates Prospects  |  Last updated 10/29/14
Picimg_mlb_mar_18_9499
Jonathan Sanchez looks to improve on his 8.07 ERA from a year ago. Left-hander Jonathan Sanchez will be making his first regular season start for the Pirates on Friday night at Dodger Stadium. “Jonathan has made as good a stride as anyone we had in camp, with the command, with the four-pitch mix,” Hurdle said. “He’s excited. He’s in the best place he’s been: physically, self-confidence, all those things packed together.” Catcher Michael McKenry (not in tonight’s lineup) spoke highly of Sanchez’s deception with his pitches. He also said that Sanchez was much more comfortable starting than out of the bullpen. Over his four spring training starts, Sanchez had a 3.68 ERA, generated 14 strikeouts and allowed three walks over 13.2 innings. “He’s all about filling up the zone,” McKenry said. “When he can do that, he’s really special. He did it all spring… and ended the spring really nicely.” McKenry described Sanchez as having “electric stuff,” and he’s not wrong. You don’t strike out 23% of the hitters you face (as Sanchez did most recently in 2011) without good stuff. The problem, still, is command. Sanchez walked 16% of batters last year, the most in baseball, and allowed batters to hit .305, which was 10th among pitchers with 60+ innings. I wasn’t able to talk to Jonathan Sanchez in the clubhouse. To make up for it, here are some lovely GIFs of Sanchez pitching in April two years ago, when he started the 2011 season strong. First, check out Sanchez getting good movement on his 90 mph fastball to strike out Albert Pujols. Now here’s something the Pirates hope Sanchez can do to Andre Ethier, get him to swing and miss on an 81 mph power slider. McKenry on Sanchez’s slider: “It can be a slider, it can more of a short break, big break, or a really big break… It’s definitely his out pitch.” And look how frustrated Ethier was! That’s what Sanchez can do. Will he? I doubt it, but I can be convinced. Dodger Stadium at least presents a familiar environment (7 appearances, 5.20 ERA, 26 strikeouts, 17 walks in 27.2 innings). Travis Snider in the lineup Snider is starting in right field and hitting seventh against starter Zack Greinke, who is making his Dodgers debut. Talk about a tough way  to get started. “I faced him in the A.L. in 2009 when he was at the top of his game,” Snider said. “He knows how to mix his pitches well. He’s going to be a bulldog on the mound. You have to be patient.” It is his Snider’s start of 2013 after he sat for the first three games in favor of Garrett Jones, Gaby Sanchez and Jose Tabata. The starts for Sanchez against right-handed pitchers surprised many fans, but Snider understands the situation. “I watched spring training. I saw Gaby and Garrett… they swung the bat really well,” Snider said. The left-handed hitter was informed by Hurdle before Opening Day that he would not start (“You appreciate that communication from the coaching staff”), and is still making adjustments to his swing. “I wanted to break out with the guys who were swinging the bat the best. You saw what happened in the three-game series,” Hurdle said. “Travis made very good strides throughout Spring Training.” Hotter Weather, Hotter Bats? The temperature will be 65 degrees for first pitch, and Hurdle agreed it should be a much more comfortable hitting environment for his team, one that scored only six runs and no homers in three games at PNC Park, with temperatures in the 30′s and 40′s. “It’s gonna be a difference,” Hurdle said. “Not that we were uncomfortable, but it’s a challenge coming out of Spring Training when you’re in that kind of weather.” Hurdle praised the Cubs pitchers that limited the Pirates’ run production, but added, “We missed some pitches. We probably weren’t as aggressive in the strike zone as we needed to be.” You can say that again. The Bucs swung at only 55% of pitches inside the strike zone to start the season, the third-lowest mark in baseball. The Dodgers were the lowest at 54%. SoCal Connections Russell Martin returns to Dodger Stadium after playing five seasons in L.A., and the first time he is playing at Chavez Ravine since 2010. “It feels weird being on the other side,” Martin said, and noted to Tom Bragg yesterday, “I’ll embrace it, whatever happens.” Hurdle mentioned that Martin did not get as much time catching regular games in Spring Training as he would have liked, so he is looking forward to Martin catching the Pirates’ top four pitchers their first time through the rotation. I tweeted yesterday that Martin is +8 as a receiver, meaning his pitch framing has gotten pitcher eight more strikes than average through three games. Relievers Justin Wilson and Jared Hughes also have Southern California ties. Wilson (born in nearby Anaheim) said he left 20 tickets for friends and family tonight, his Dodger Stadium debut. Hughes, who was born in the area and lived in L.A. before moving to Texas, doesn’t notice the family presence when he’s on the mound. “But it is nice to be able to go out to lunch with Mom and Dad, and have that support system when you are leaving after the game,” Hughes said. His favorite spot for lunch? In-N-Out Burger, of course. Pirates Lineup: LF Starling Marte 2B Neil Walker (S) CF Andrew McCutchen 3B Pedro Alvarez (L) C Russell Martin 1B Garrett Jones (L) RF Travis Snider (L) SS Clint Barmes LHP Jonathan Sanchez Dodgers Lineup: LF Carl Crawford (L) 2B Mark Ellis CF Matt Kemp 1B Adrian Gonzalez 3B Luiz Cruz LF Andre Ethier (L) C A.J. Ellis SS Justin Sellers RHP Zack Greinke
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Bears to bench Jay Cutler, start Jimmy Clausen

Jim Harbaugh to Michigan speculation building

Heat lose a key player with McRoberts out for rest of season

Belichick: Ryan is 'buttering me up' with Hall of Fame praise

Marshall: Bears need to gel and do some kumbaya

Ray McDonald investigated for possible sexual assault

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Red Sox appear content with rotation despite lack of true ace

Iguodala gets technical for mocking Conley travel

Bo Pelini takes shot at Nebraska during introductory presser

Belichick: Patriots need to play better against the Jets

Rex Ryan doesn't want to get in trouble talking about Revis

Bears Conte willing to shorten lifespan for NFL career

Brad Halsey claimed he was on cocaine for Bonds record HR

Wade Miley confident in health, diet after trade from D-Backs

When bowl results mean more for one school than another

Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson lead in 2014 athlete Google searches

Molding the market: All eyes on Max Scherzer

Another "Fire John Idzik' plane flies at Jets practice

Four can't-miss match-ups in NFL's Week 16

Report: Some Browns shunned Manziel during pregame

Making an attempt to understand Celtics' priorities

Gronk makes awkward sausage joke on 'Top Chef'

Walmart ripped for confusing Anthony/Lin doll

RG3 taking sabbatical from social media for rest of season

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

When bowl results mean more for one school than another

Four can't-miss match-ups in NFL's Week 16

RG3 quits social media for season

Each NFL division’s MVP

5 NFLers who must step up in Week 16

Most impressive college hoops teams

Five reasons why FSU is going to win the CFB Playoff

Boxer admits to dive in Rourke bout

FCC heard about Brady's swearing?

Embracing the hate of the Eagles-Cowboys Rivalry

DeSean Jackson mocks Eagles

Andrew Hawkins defends shirt

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.