Nieves welcomes Sanchez to exclusive club
Sox pitching coach was first Puerto Rican to throw no-hitter
MINNEAPOLIS -- Jonathan Sanchez joined an extremely exclusive fraternity late Friday night, one in which White Sox bullpen coach Juan Nieves previously was the sole member.
"Well, when I found out this morning, I was very proud of him," said Nieves, who was born in Las Lomas, Puerto Rico, speaking of Sanchez prior to Saturday's game with the Twins at the Metrodome.
"It's nice. The more additions the better," said Nieves with a broad smile. "The country gets more recognized, which we don't really represent very well on the pitching side. We haven't produced a lot of pitchers. It's great and it couldn't have happened to a nicer kid."
Nieves knew of Sanchez from an encounter years ago in winter baseball, and remembers thinking at the time that Sanchez had the "potential to be a big league pitcher someday."
"And having his father, for the first day ever, watching his son play, my quote would be the father should have been out there all year," said Nieves with a laugh. "He probably could have had a couple of those already."
Remembering his no-hitter was a bit tougher for Nieves to do, considering it took place over 22 years ago. But the talented left-hander, whose career was limited to three years due to arm injuries, bested the Orioles and Mike Flanagan by a 7-0 count. He struck out seven, and unlike Sanchez's pinpoint control, Nieves walked five.
This masterful mound effort stood as the Brewers' ninth straight win among 13 in a row for Milwaukee to start the 1987 season, before the White Sox defeated the Brewers on April 21. Nieves returned to Milwaukee this season for Interleague Play, as a member of the White Sox coaching staff, and remains the only Milwaukee pitcher to ever hurl a no-hitter.
"I thought CC [Sabathia] would break that," said Nieves of the Brewers' major acquisition in 2008. "It would have been great for people to actually see that in Milwaukee. Great fans. I would have loved for him to go out there and have the hometown fans have a chance to see that.
"A lot of things have happened. It's fond memories. It was fun at the time because we had a really good winning streak. I was at a young age. It was a lot of fun in Baltimore. But once again, I wish my best and say congratulations to Jonathan Sanchez."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.