Alex Sanchez knows about pain.
He left Havana, Cuba on a raft in 1994 and spent 16 months at a refugee camp in Guantanamo Bay before making it to America. He's bounced around the minor leagues for five seasons. And on Tuesday, he was sent down from Milwaukee to Indianapolis for a sixth tour of minor-league duty.
Sanchez is handling this latest bout of disappointment quite well. He ran his consecutive hit streak to eight during the Indians' 14-10 win over the Buffalo Bisons Wednesday afternoon, even though he played with stomach pains and against his manager's wishes.
"Sanchez has been a thorn in our side," Bisons manager Eric Wedge said. "He's an outstanding ballplayer. He can run, tracks the ball down out in the outfield. He's a pretty good hitter, too."
Good enough to give the Bisons stomach pains similar to those Sanchez felt after eating something bad for breakfast. Good enough to collect three singles, one double, three RBIs and score two runs before leaving for the day. And good enough to spark an Indians' rally where all 10 batters recorded at least one hit and the team tallied 17.
Sanchez is trying to make a point. He wants back into the big leagues, where he hit .190 in eight games this season. When Indianapolis manager Wendell Kim wanted him to sit out with stomach pains, Sanchez politely declined. He wants to make it back now.
"I'm down here but I want to go back (to the majors)," Sanchez said. "I have to work in here because something will happen, and I'll be back to the big leagues."
Eight consecutive hits, one short of a modern-day Indianapolis record, should help. So should the 56 stolen bases and .291 batting average he put up annually in the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' organization (Milwaukee claimed Sanchez when Tampa Bay put him on waivers). Awards like Tampa Bay's Minor League Player of the Year in 1998 and the Most Exciting Player in the South Atlantic League shouldn't hurt either.
"It's great," Kim said of Sanchez's performance in the two games against Buffalo. "He met us here from the big leagues. I put him right in there and, well, 8 for 8, even with his stomach problems today."
Sanchez's pains were nothing compared to the pain Buffalo felt from the pitching mound. The bleeding started almost immediately when Sanchez singled up the middle, later scoring the game's first run after right fielder Robert Perez grounded into a double play.
It continued in the second inning, when Sanchez's second single brought in first baseman Bucky Jacobson to give Indianapolis a 3-0 lead.
In the third inning, things started to unravel for Buffalo starter Ryan Drese. He plunked two batters, bringing his total for the game to four, including shortstop Elvis Pena with the bases loaded. Sanchez delivered the knockout blow, doubling in two runs to extend the lead to 6-0. Drese, who had trouble controlling his fastball, never got an out in the third inning, and after surrendering seven earned runs, was lifted in favor of an already overworked bullpen. It took Buffalo six pitchers to finish the game.
Sanchez added a single in the fifth inning for good measure. He then stole second and scored on an infield single by second baseman Lou Collier. The Indians added three more fifth-inning runs to put the game out of reach, 11-3.
Despite its woes on the mound, Buffalo countered with three three-run home runs. Kevin Sefcik hit his first home run in the fourth, Anthony Medrano hit his fifth home run in the sixth and Dave Hollins nailed another three-run blast in the eighth. Karim Garcia also hit a solo home run to center field. John Snyder picked up the win for Indianapolis and Gus Gandarillas earned the save with three innings of relief.
While the Bisons' power display brought the score closer together, it did little to help Buffalo get back into the game. Worse yet, a tired bullpen still hasn't gotten any rest.
"It's a situation where we're thin, but we'll have to overcome it," Wedge said. "You're going to have spells throughout the course of the season where you're going to be a little thin in the bullpen. Certain pitchers are going to have to step up for us. The guys in the bullpen have been great. They've been taking the ball.
"We're going to do the best we can to get through this."
The bullpen and the Bisons will get another shot at Indianapolis today, when the series continues at 7:05 p.m. Jared Wright will be making his first start for Buffalo since being optioned back from parent Cleveland and Butch Henry will take the mound for the Indians.