Baseball's arms race starts in Venezuela

"So I just see better stuff coming out of his arm. I knew the stuff was there, but he's just letting it happen now instead of trying to force it. He put a lot of pressure on himself to try to get to the big leagues by doing too much. Once he got the call, it was almost like a confidence boost."

In that context, Sanchez is a little like the country he represents. The talent was always there; all he needed was the chance to show it off.

"In Venezuela, there's always been a lot of talent," he says. "It's just that now we're working harder to raise our country's profile. And now there's a lot of young players coming out like Miguel [Cabrera], Felix Hernandez, Francisco Rodriguez, Omar Infante, Ronny Cedeno.

"We've been good, but now we're getting the chance to demonstrate that."

Kevin Baxter is the national baseball writer for The Miami Herald and co-author of "Miracle over Miami: How the 2003 Marlins Shocked the World." He can be reached via e-mail at Gordon Wittenmyer of the St. Paul Pioneer Press also contributed to this story.

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