By Jim Callis
April 29, 2004
Four weeks after acquiring hard-throwing lefty reliever Steve Colyer from the Dodgers, the Tigers were at it again on Thursday. Detroit picked up another power bullpen lefty in Felix Sanchez from the Cubs, in exchange for 2003 minor league ERA leader Jon Connolly and a player to be named later.
Sanchez, 22, signed out of the Dominican Republic in 1998. The Cubs initially tried to develop him as a starter, but converted him to relief in 2003. Pitching out of the bullpen, he works in the mid-90s and can touch 97 mph with his fastball. He also has a decent changeup, but doesn’t use it enough, and his inability to come up with an effective breaking ball prompted his move from the rotation. Sanchez needs to repeat his delivery better, which would improve his slider and his command. He was off to a slow start this year at Double-A West Tenn, posting a 7.11 ERA in seven appearances. In six innings, he has given up 11 hits and four walks while striking out five.
Connolly, a 20-year-old southpaw, was a 28th-round pick out of Oneonta (N.Y.) High in 2001. Though his stuff is far from overpowering, he led the minors with a 1.41 ERA while going 16-3 at low Class A West Michigan last year. Connolly has an 83-88 mph fastball and a below-average curveball, but his plus-plus changeup and excellent command have enabled him to baffle hitters thus far. In four starts at high Class A Lakeland this April, he went 2-2, 3.68. In 22 innings, he allowed 28 hits and five walks while fanning eight. His brother Mike is a Double-A lefty in the Pirates system.
The moves clears a 40-man roster spot for Chicago, which may use the opening to recall veteran lefty Glendon Rusch from Triple-A.
Aug. 13 update: The Cubs received Triple-A lefthander Eric Eckenstahler to finish the trade.
Eckenstahler, 27, was drafted in the 32nd round out of Illinois State in 1999 and signed as a fifth-year senior draft-and-follow a year later. At 6-foot-7, he employs a deceptive motion that makes his pitches tough to pick up. His stuff is fairly ordinary, as he works with a fringe average fastball and slider. He has spent all of 2004 at Triple-A Toledo, going 1-2, 5.15 in 42 appearances. He has a 45-30 strikeout-walk ratio in 44 innings, with opponents batting .317 with five homers. He got into 27 big league games with the Tigers in 2002-03, posting a 1-0, 3.80 record. His career mark in the minors is 11-16, 4.12 with six saves in 201 contests.