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Anibal Sanchez will continue playing, hopes to remain with Braves

Anibal Sanchez experienced a revival with the Braves that he hopes will continue into 2019.

Sanchez, 34, was a mid-March signee who became the Game 2 starter in the NLDS. He ate 136-2/3 innings for the Braves, emerging as a reliable arm on the field and an invaluable instructor in the clubhouse.

The righty posted a 2.83 ERA along with 135 strikeouts. Despite a pair of injury scares, he made 24 starts. He mentored several of the younger players, emerging as a somewhat player-coach. 

“I think sometimes a team needs someone like that,” Sanchez said. “They need someone who brings some energy when you’re thinking and face a little pressure. … I tried to get them laughing and get some energy with the team.”

He reinvented himself as a pitcher, serenading with his butterfly pitch and resembling his 2013 form, when he led the league in ERA.

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Now Sanchez is scheduled to re-enter the free-agent market. He was among many players who struggled to find work last winter, eventually landing with Minnesota in February only to be released a month later.

“I always try to control what I can control,” Sanchez said. “The past offseason was crazy for free agency. I have that on my mind, so I don’t want to have any pressure when I have to sign. But I’m happy with what I’ve done this year. Now is a time for family and to think of everything I’ve done, then prepare for next year.”

There will be a next year for Sanchez. He contemplated retirement in the past, but after a rejuvenated season with the Braves, he could envision himself pitching for another couple of years. 

Which begs the question of where. The Braves are expected to have an active winter. Their own free agents include Nick Markakis, Kurt Suzuki and Sanchez, all of whom played key roles on and off the field for a surprising contender.

The Braves are rich with pitching depth, but they won’t go all young. Sanchez would welcome the chance to return and continue assisting the plethora of developing talent.

“I would love to,” he said. “They gave me an opportunity to be here. The club they have here, it’s amazing. I know they’re going to do a lot of good things next year. I’d love to be here again.”

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