The Tampa Bay Rays could leave spring training with 32-year-old Juan Sandoval on the roster. The right hander has never pitched in the majors but there is more to the story. Sandoval is blind in his right eye.
Reliever Joel Peralta told Andrew Friedman about Sandoval and things have blossomed from there. Manager Joe Maddon has liked what he has seen thus far as Sandoval has a fastball that can reach the mid-90s.
“I’m 32 years old and, honestly, I’m in the best shape of my career,” says Sandoval, who is scheduled to pitch Sunday during Tampa Bay’s spring game against the Minnesota Twins at Fort Myers, Fla.
“I’ve worked hard but it’s not about the eye,” he says. “I don’t think about that. I have three kids now. I support my mom and dad. These are key things that are at the center of my life, the ones that make me work harder. These kids are maybe why I got better. I have to support them. Not because I want to prove to the world.”
Sandoval spent four years in the Seattle Mariners system before a shooting at a restaurant in the Dominican Republic left him blind in his right eye.
Last year Sandoval played in the Mexican League where he made 67 appearances, finishing with a 2.97 ERA. Those results left Sandoval with a clear perspective.
“They don’t care, as long as you’re getting people out. If you know you could be pitching every day, you have to prepare harder. I had to work my ass off.”