Durham is Just the Latest Stop in the Saga of Juan Sandoval

By David Hill

Seemingly every inspirational story in the world of sports occurs after the person deals with continued adversity and setback after setback. Rarely does the player get their chance without having to make additional stops along the way. However, in the case of Juan Sandoval, this latest stop may actually be a positive in his journey to the major leagues.

Sandoval was one of six players who were optioned by the Rays today to AAA Durham, where he will continue his quest to appear in a major league game. The fact that the 32 year old minor league veteran is even pitching is an amazing story of itself, as he lost the vision in his right eye due to a shotgun blast in 2006. Primarily a starter until that point, Sandoval became a reliever and bounced around the minor leagues before spending the last two seasons in the Mexican League.

Invited to the major league camp as a non-roster invitee, Sandoval pitched well before getting hit hard in his last couple of outings. Overall, he gave up six runs on seven hits and six walks in seven innings, while recording six strikeouts and earning two saves. His velocity, which had been solid at the start of camp, decreased as the spring continued.

Yet, this assignment to Durham may be a positive for Sandoval. His AAA experience has totaled 21 games, and was split between 2007 and 2009, so it may be worth seeing how Sandoval fares against that level of competition. Considering that the Rays went through 12 different relievers last season, should Sandoval prove himself to be able to be productive in AAA, he may get a chance in Tampa later on in the season.

If Juan Sandoval is able to make an appearance with the Rays, it would be the culmination of his hard work and dedication in coming back from an injury that threatened to not only end his career, but could have left him blind. This is just the latest chapter in his saga.