GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Angel Sanchez has been there before and he wants to return to the majors in the worst way.
Although plenty of scenarios lead to him landing a spot on the White Sox Opening Day roster, the Rule 5 selectee can’t allow himself to believe the notion.
The veteran middle infielder is aware he has an inside track to a spot on the White Sox 25-man roster because he’s the only true shortstop behind Alexei Ramirez. But Sanchez -- who has played 184 major league games -- also knows his position isn’t solid enough to be over-confident.
“I’m coming in like I have never played in the majors before,” Sanchez said. “I want to get into the majors again. I’m really not taking anything for granted on Rule 5. It will make me work harder. That’s why I’m here, to work as hard as I can.”
Sanchez isn’t your typical Rule 5 selection.
This isn’t your diamond in the rough like other cases where the Minnesota Twins unearthed Johan Santana from the depths of the Houston Astros’ farm system or the Florida Marlins uncovered a future All-Star in Dan Uggla from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
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Sanchez is 29.
He started 110 games for the 2011 Astros and has ample experience. Every aspect of his game has also been vetted by hundreds of scouts.
The White Sox don’t hope Sanchez turns into a superstar, they want a serviceable infielder with the ability to step into the lineup for a few days in a pinch or provide steady defense off the bench.
So while he didn’t fit the normal profile for a Rule 5 player -- like White Sox reliever Donnie Veal did when the Pittsburgh Pirates plucked him off the Cubs Double-A Tennessee roster in 2008 -- Sanchez is an ideal candidate to become the Sox backup middle infielder.
“We saw an opportunity to bring in a guy we felt fit the big league roster,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said.
Thus far Sanchez has shown a solid glove. He has a strong arm at short. And he eventually will have the chance to show he can do a variety of things with the bat, including the ability to get a bunt down.
Manager Robin Ventura’s observation to this point is mostly limited to the field.
“He looked smooth around shortstop,” Ventura said.
Hahn believes Sanchez -- who has a .240/.305/.285 slash line in 628 plate appearances -- handles the bat well.
“He does have a solid offensive approach, pretty disciplined hitter, knows the strike zone and sprays the ball around,” Hahn said. “But at the end, defense is going to have some bearing on what fits.”
How Sanchez came to be in camp with the White Sox lap is also as atypical as his Rule 5 status.
A free agent this offseason, Sanchez said he had no idea the White Sox would be part of his future because he signed a minor-league deal with the Los Angeles Angels on Oct. 26. Hahn said the White Sox had interest in Sanchez playing with them this season -- he played for assistant GM Buddy Bell in Kansas City in 2006 -- but were puzzled when he signed even before the World Series began.
But because it was a minor-league deal and the Angels didn’t plan to protect Sanchez on their 40-man roster, the Sox still had a chance to bring him on board and exercised their option.
“We have guys in here first-round picks for us or guys who were part of big trades but we also have guys who are waiver claims, six-year free agents and Rule 5 is just another avenue to augment the roster,” Hahn said.
Sanchez said he didn’t know much about the Rule 5 draft before his agent explained the process and how the White Sox have to keep him on the 25-man roster all season or return him to the Angels. Now he hopes to recapture the feeling he had in 2011, when he was proud to not only make the Astros’ Opening Day roster, but he also started and went 2-for-4 with a run, an RBI and a sacrifice in a 5-4 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.
“It was really an exciting moment in my life,” Sanchez said. “This is a great opportunity. I really prepared myself in the offseason to get here and show them what I can do, do my little things. I’m ready to help the team win.”