First or third, Sanchez wants to succeed

MIAMI -- When Gaby Sanchez watches Jorge Cantu, he sees some similarities to himself.

Not that Sanchez aspires to pattern himself after any one player, but he and Cantu share some common ground.
Cantu is one of those quiet run producers who gives you quality at-bats with little fanfare.

Like Cantu, who drove in 100 runs for the Marlins in 2009, Sanchez's best position is first base. But both also can play third.

"We're very similar just by the way he hits," Sanchez said. "He hits the ball to all fields. He hits for a pretty good average. He has power. He can play third and first. We are similar in that kind of circumstances."

The irony is, depending on which direction the Marlins go this offseason, Sanchez may ultimately replace Cantu on the roster. Cantu is in line for a pay raise in arbitration, and if he is dealt, Sanchez and prospect Logan Morrison are expected to get a chance to win the first-base job in Spring Training.

If Cantu returns and moves primarily to third, then Sanchez and Morrison also will have a shot to win the starting first-base job.

Rather than look ahead, Sanchez is focused on taking the necessary steps to becoming a big league regular. The 26-year-old, who spent most of last year at Triple-A New Orleans, entered Spring Training in 2009 as a front-runner to win the first-base job.

But the Miami native, who attended the University of Miami, had a rough spring. Hampered by a sore left knee, he was limited to 14 Grapefruit League games, and in 36 at-bats, he hit .194.

Near the end of Spring Training, Sanchez was optioned to Triple-A, where he hit .289 with 16 home runs and 56 RBIs in 85 games.

Sanchez appeared in 21 games for the Marlins, and he had 21 at-bats, with two home runs and three RBIs in limited action.

"It was a rough year," Sanchez said. "Not so much the part of not making the team out of Spring Training. The injury hurt me a little bit. It set me back a little bit. I showed after the injury with the knee I was able to come back and perform and do what I needed to do get back to this level.

"Now, I'm not trying to do too much. I need to be relaxed. The more relaxed I am, the better I'm able to do things."
Sanchez has always had the reputation of being a strong hitter. At Double-A in 2008, he earned Southern League MVP honors after batting .314 with 17 home runs and 92 RBIs.

In the eyes of baseball statistical expert Bill James, Sanchez could be a sleeper for the Marlins in 2010.

In the recently released Bill James Handbook 2010, Sanchez is projected to have a solid season. If he gets enough playing time and at-bats, James' book forecasts Sanchez to bat .279 with 15 home runs and 59 RBIs.

"I'm just going to go out there and do whatever I can," Sanchez said. "They will tell me if I should practice at third or practice at first. My thoughts are it is going to be first. I'm going to keep working and keep doing the things at first base. It doesn't matter what position it is, I'm going to work hard at either one that I do."

Competition may ultimately determine who's on first for Florida for Opening Day 2010.

Nick Johnson is a free agent who isn't expected to return. Cantu, if he's back, may find himself at third if either Sanchez or Morrison is ready to assume the first-base job.

If that is the case, then Cantu could be at third base.

"My thoughts are my main position is first base," Sanchez said. "I'm going to go out there and keep doing the things I've been doing. It doesn't matter to me whatever position it is, I'm going to do the best I can do."

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