Sanford was called up because Andrew Kown, who was Friday’s scheduled starter, was placed on the temporary inactive list because of the birth of his son. So Sanford hitched a ride with minor league pitching coordinator Bert Bradley and made the two-hour drive up Highway 99 to get to the ballpark.
Little did manager Bob Mariano know the type of start he would get from the young righty, who was making his first appearance above single-A, in his first professional season as a full-time starter.
The 2009 13th round pick tossed six strong innings, allowing only two unearned runs off five hits and three walks, while striking out six. He used a good mix of his fastball and off-speed pitches to keep hitters off balance, but struggled at times with his command, throwing only 54 of 93 pitches for strikes.
“I was impressed,” Mariano said. “He made some good pitches, but we didn’t give him any offensive support. It was exactly what we need from him. He kept us in the game.”
Sanford has made nine starts for San Jose this year to varying levels of success. He has a 4-4 record with a 4.99 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP. He hasn’t been known to record strikeouts, recording only 19 in 48 2/3 innings. His strikeout rate has fallen as he has made more starts than relief appearances.
However, on that Friday night, Sanford averaged a strikeout per inning.
“His poise out there [was strong],” Mariano said. “He threw some good breaking balls, some good changeups, he held runners well. I was really impressed, he held runners well, he had a good at-bat up there. I told him to go out there and have some fun, and that’s what he did.”
Perhaps the most impressive part of the outing was the circumstances surrounding it: not finding out that he would pitch until the morning of the game, and having to make a two-hour trip in order to get to the park. According to Mariano, that showed strong mental fortitude on his part.
“It’s obviously got to help his confidence that he could come up here and pitch at a higher level,” Mariano said.
Sanford’s spot on the team was short lived, however. After the game he was transferred back to San Jose, with Jason Stevenson being promoted from Richmond to take his place on the roster.