Saturday, March 25, 2006
Reds sign outfielder Alex Sanchez
By Marc Lancaster, Post staff reporter
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SARASOTA, Fla. - The Reds have added to an already intriguing collection of minor league outfielders by signing Alex Sanchez to a minor league contract.
Sanchez, 29, has played in more than 400 big-league games, hitting .296 along the way. He has stolen as many as 92 bases in a minor league season and 52 one year in the majors.
So why was he unemployed as spring training neared an end?
The stigma of being the first major leaguer suspended for steroid use may have had something to do with it.
Sanchez tested positive for steroids last spring and was suspended for 10 days. He was playing for the Devil Rays at the time and was slated to be Tampa Bay's Opening Day center fielder. He had been cut by the Tigers earlier last spring and said at the time that he had been tested while still with Detroit.
After the positive test was revealed, Sanchez said he had never taken steroids, but had purchased various items over the counter - such as multivitamins and protein shakes - that may have caused the positive test. He didn't appeal his suspension.
Sanchez returned to play 43 games for the Devil Rays last year, hitting .346, but Tampa Bay designated him for assignment in June. The Giants claimed him off waivers, and he played in 19 games for them before going on the disabled list in July with a sprained elbow. In August, the Giants designated him for assignment.
Looking to improve their organizational depth, the Reds decided to take a chance on Sanchez, but only after player development director Johnny Almaraz laid down the law to the player.
"I'm going to gamble on him," Almaraz said Saturday. "I've been very direct to him in spelling out what I want and what the organization wants. If he doesn't comply with the way the Cincinnati Reds do business, he'll be out of here. It's zero tolerance."
Almaraz said he met with Sanchez for two hours before allowing him to take the field, but the outfielder agreed to all of the Reds' stipulations.
Late Saturday morning, Sanchez was in a batting practice group on the back fields, wearing a No. 56 uniform without a name on the back, as Almaraz looked on.
The plan is to start Sanchez off with high-Class A Sarasota for a few weeks to let him get back up to speed after missing most of spring training. After that, Sanchez likely will be sent to Louisville, where he'll join a couple of other players who have some big-league time, Timo Perez and Brian Buchanan.