The sad demise and uncertain future of Jonathan Sanchez

Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez (57) delivers to Seattle Mariners’ Dustin Ackley during the first inning of a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Monday, July 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

There was a time when Jonathan Sanchez was the pitcher with the most promise on the San Francisco Giants’ staff.

That time ended long ago, and now we’re left to wonder if Sanchez will be pitching in the majors for anyone anytime soon.

On Tuesday, the Kansas City Royals designated pitcher Jonathan Sanchez for assignment, in a move they probably thought was the rock-bottom moment from their offseason trade with the Giants.

They were wrong.

Sanchez and pitcher Ryan Verdugo were acquired in a trade with the Giants for outfielder Melky Cabrera.

On Monday, Sanchez was tagged for seven runs in 1 1/3 innings against the weak-hitting Mariners. That bumped his season ERA to 7.76 in 12 starts. He had not won since April 8.

On Tuesday, Sanchez was designated for assignment, making room on the roster for Verdugo, who was 6-2 with a 3.58 ERA with Triple-A Omaha this season. Verdugo made his MLB debut Tuesday against the Mariners.

Against the Mariners, Verdugo was tagged for six runs on eight hits and two walks in 1 2/3 innings.

All of this came exactly one week after Cabrera started in the outfield for the National League All-Star team, eventually being named MVP of the game, which was ironically played in Kansas City.

Ouch.

“You want them all to work out, but most of the time they don’t, unfortunately,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said Tuesday about the trade. “It’s part of the business, you move on and you accept it. You continue to look for solutions.

“There’s no need to spend a lot of time rehearsing what went wrong. You certainly analyze it, but don’t beat yourself about it because this game moves on. You can’t dwell on it. You can’t get stuck on it. You’ve got to move forward.”

OK, let’s move forward. On Tuesday, Cabrera went 2 for 5 with a hustle double, two runs and an RBI as the Giants beat the Braves 9-0. It was Cabrera’s NL-leading 41st multi-hit game of the season. He’s hitting .353 on the season.

As for Sanchez, it’s another fall along what has been become a steady decline since the 2010 season when it looked as if Sanchez had reached that potential the Giants fans had heard about for years.

Sanchez was outstanding in 2010, especially down the stretch. He pitched the Giants to victory in the regular-season finale when they clinched the NL West Division title.

He had another solid outing against the Braves in the NL Division Series. Then things started to turn.

He lost Game 2 of the NLCS vs. the Phillies and appeared to be headed another loss in Game 6 when he was pulled early and the bullpen came to the rescue.

He suffered the Giants’ lone loss in the World Series vs. the Rangers.

In 2011, things became steadily worse for Sanchez, who eventually landed on the DL with “bicep tendinitis” in June. When he returned from the DL, he was no better and a foot injury in August ended his season.

The Royals acquired Sanchez in the offseason, hoping a change of scenery would help him recapture the magic of 2010. Instead, things went the opposite direction.

His ERA jumped from 4.26 in 2011 to 7.76 in 2012. His WHIP went from 1.44 to 2.04.

Royal manager Ned Yost still believes Sanchez can be a quality pitcher, but the Royals could not continue to suffer from his struggles.

“It’s still there with Jonathan,” Yost said. “He’s still got the stuff to be successful. For whatever reason, he just wasn’t successful here. It just got to a point we needed to regroup for us and for him.”

So then what’s next for Dirty Sanchez?

It’s doubtful that another contender would want to risk throwing Sanchez into its starting rotation or even bullpen. If he latches on with a contender, it would involve him heading to Triple-A to figure things out.

The Royals are hoping he clears waivers and accepts a minor-league assignment with them. Sanchez had a 6.75 ERA in three rehab starts with Triple-A Omaha this season.

“We designated him and that gives us 10 days to trade him, but he also has an option and, if he agrees, he can go to Triple-A with us, which I’d personally like to see him do,” Yost said. “Because it’s still there, his stuff’s still there.”

Sanchez will clear waivers because no team will want to be on the hook for the remainder of the $5.6 million he’s earning this season.

If he wants to stay in the majors, it will have to be with a non-contender. A non-contender that is starved for starting pitching and preferably plays in a pitcher-friendly park.

And that leads to only one team … the San Diego Padres.

We’ll find out in 10 days.

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