Anibal Sanchez gets his ‘golden opportunity’ in Game 2

Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos was speaking candidly with a small group of reporters during Wednesday’s workout at Dodger Stadium, the Braves’ last before the National League Division Series began Thursday.

When asked about his expectations when scooping Anibal Sanchez off the free-agent market in mid-March, Anthopoulos exhibited his sense of humor.

"I thought Cy Young candidate,” he said. “I was like, ‘I can't believe we got this guy at this rate.’”

Sanchez, 34, produced a 2.83 ERA and struck out 135 hitters over 136-2/3 innings in his first season with the Braves. He dazzled with his butterfly pitch. Manager Brian Snitker referred to him as their most consistent starter.

As such, he’s earned a Game 2 start for the Braves in the National League Division Series, to oppose Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher of this generation, on one of baseball’s biggest stages Friday.

An inconceivable notion in spring training, to say the least. One that sums up what the 2018 Braves have achieved. So much has been made of the youngsters, yet Sanchez represents the opposite end of the spectrum, rediscovering life after being thrown aside.

The Twins released Sanchez, whose career appeared to be falling victim to Father Time. He signed a minor-league flier with the Braves.

“We brought him in to get a look, see where he’s at,” Snitker said at the time. “He’s a depth piece. I mean, who knows? He might make our club. We’ll evaluate.”

Snitker’s words and tone indicate just how far-fetched this reality is. Sanchez was not only exceptional on the field, but he was essentially a coach off of it. He instructed the younger arms, teaching them how to prepare, care for their bodies and handle life in the majors.

From his perspective, he’s an old man in a young clubhouse.

“To get here, it’s a golden opportunity for me,” Sanchez said. “I feel so blessed to be here. I had a good season, a healthy team. … When you see all those guys, the young guys, play next to you, you realize how many years you’ve played at this level.”

Perhaps this is the end of Sanchez’s career, but he’ll have the chance to continue pitching if he so chooses. Some of that future could be determined by how he fares in his next start – possibly two – against the Dodgers.

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