Welcome back to another offseason series of ‘Shadows of Shea’. Once again, we’ll use this time to reminisce about past Mets players; the obscure guys, the forgotten ones. Remember, whether they contributed to a playoff run or just simply serve as an answer to a Howie Rose trivia question, they are as part of Mets history as Seaver and Piazza. Next up, the hopeful, yet unfortunate career of Duaner Sánchez.
How’s pitching 18 scoreless innings in 15 games for a debut? That’s how Duaner Sánchez started the 2006 season and his Mets career.
The Mets acquired him via trade from the Los Angeles Dodgers after he posted impressive 2004 and 2005 campaigns as a reliever and fill-in closer. After spending his first few seasons being sent around the MLB, it seemed Sánchez had finally found a home in Flushing, Queens. Sánchez was the setup man for fearless closer Billy Wagner, creating a nice one-two punch to close out games. With 49 appearances logged in the 2006 season, Sánchez was pitching to the tune of a 5-1 record and an ERA of 2.60. The Mets had their setup man of the future, and were bolstering the best bullpen in the National League.
Then came the tragedy. In the early hours of July 31st, right before the 2006 trade deadline, Sánchez met his cousin and friend to grab a late night meal in Miami. On their way to the restaurant, a drunk driver crashed into their taxi, causing an accident in which Sánchez separated his shoulder. Right after the crash, Sánchez flew back to New York to receive season-ending surgery to repair the shoulder. The Mets lost their setup man, leading them to make a series of unexpected moves in the remaining hours of the trade deadline to stay in contention. Furthermore, Sánchez would have a long road to recovery and never regain his elite form.
The Mets agreed to retain Sánchez for the 2007 season, but further injuries to his shoulder prevented him from making a single appearance. He recovered for the 2008 season, but struggled to find his form in his return. He appeared in 66 games, and although he turned in another 5-1 record, his ERA rose to a disappointing 4.32. Sánchez returned to the Mets for Spring Training in 2009, but failed to secure a roster spot. His days as the Mets’ dominant setup man were over.
After his departure from Queens, Sánchez landed one final opportunity with the San Diego Padres in 2009. Sadly, he only made 12 relief appearances before being released and eventually retiring from the MLB. Sanchez finished his abridged big-league career with a record of 19-11 and an ERA of 4.10 in 288 appearances. He pitched for five MLB teams, never appearing in more than two seasons for any of them.
Sánchez would stay in baseball for a couple of more seasons, trying to keep his career afloat in Canadian and Mexican leagues. He appeared in 39 games across the two aforementioned leagues, posting an ERA of 3.69. The following year, Duaner would play his final season of baseball, appearing in nine games for the Long Island Ducks of the Independent Atlantic League.