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Sanchez can’t wait for spring training to begin

Jeff Tully

With less than a month left until the opening of spring training,

Freddy Sanchez is in the best shape of his life.

Along with his physical condition, the former Burbank High

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baseball star is also invigorated with renewed self-confidence and

enthusiastic about his future as an infielder for the Boston Red Sox.

“I can’t wait for spring training to start,” said Sanchez, who is

scheduled to report Feb. 19 to the team’s facility at City of Palms

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Park in Fort Myers, Fla. “It’s just nice knowing that I will be

training with the big club. I’m ready to prove myself.”

The Boston pitchers and catchers are expected to report Feb. 14.

Sanchez, 25 -- who graduated from Burbank in 1996 -- has continued

a meteoric climb through the Red Sox organization since being drafted

in the 11th round of the 2000 first-year-player draft. Last season,

he began the year with the club’s double-A affiliate in Trenton and

earned a promotion to triple-A Pawtucket. He ended the campaign with

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Boston, after being called up Sept. 1.

The sure-handed infielder was honored as the Red Sox’s Minor

League Player of the Year, hitting .318 with 24 stolen bases with

Trenton and Pawtucket. It was the second straight year Sanchez earned

the distinction.

“It was really an exciting year for me,” Sanchez said. “I was able

to have some success and it was great to be able to join the Red Sox

at the end of the year.”

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With a successful winter-league season behind him, and a trip this

month to a performance-enhancing clinic, Sanchez said he was prepared

to battle for the starting second base spot for the Red Sox. His

position was strengthened when infielder Rey Sanchez was not offered

arbitration after becoming a free agent.

However, Sanchez’s chance at being a full-time starter was dealt a

blow in December when Boston obtained 28-year-old Todd Walker from

the Cincinnati Reds, and slated him as the team’s regular second

baseman. Walker has one year left on a three-year contract that will

pay him $3.4 million this season.

In 2002, Walker hit .299 with 11 home runs in 155 games. He also

led all National League second basemen with a .989 fielding

percentage.

The acquisition will likely mean Sanchez will have to wait a year

to claim the second-base position.

“I got two calls from the Red Sox before the trade was announced,”

Sanchez said. “They were very nice about the whole situation and they

reassured me that I was still in their plans for the future.

“What they really want is for me to get some more experience

playing in triple A. I was with Pawtucket only for a short time last

season and they want to give me more time to improve.

“So, I’m very comfortable with the situation. I will give my best

and see what happens.”

This winter, Sanchez competed in the Mexican League, playing for

the Navojoa Mayos. In 37 games, he batted .308 with 41 hits, 19 runs

batted in, 17 runs scored, 16 walks, six doubles and four home runs.

Working solely at second base, he committed just three errors.

“Playing in the Mexican League was an experience,” he said. “We

were in a little town and there wasn’t much to do at all.

“It was kind of struggle for me because by the time I got to the

league, I had played a lot of baseball and I was really tired.”

Sanchez was able to get some time off during the Christmas

holiday, as he spent a month with his family in Burbank.

After recharging a bit, Sanchez spent some of this month in

Arizona at a Frappier Acceleration Sports Training facility. He was

able to take part in an advanced personalized professional training

program developed to improve his overall performance.

“The training has helped me a lot,” Sanchez said. “I have been

able to improve my skills and learn a lot about what I can do to

improve. Now, I’m ready for spring training.”

Sanchez will get his chance in 25 days -- which he will no doubt

be counting down.


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