Gaby Sanchez seeking a full year of success

CINCINNATI -- The crowd at Marlins Park gave Gaby Sanchez a rousing ovation on Opening Night during the pregame introductions. The Marlins’ homegrown first baseman hopes the cheering continues all the way to the end of the season.

That’s because Sanchez is out to prove that his second-half slumps the past two seasons — his first two full seasons in the majors — have been aberrations and not some inherent deficiency.

“I felt like I came into last year a little better prepared for it,” Sanchez said. “And this year I feel a little more prepared.”

In 2010, Sanchez hit .302 the first half of the season but only .237 the second half. In 2011, Sanchez hit .293 the first half of the season and landed on the All-Star team but tailed off again in the second half, hitting just .228.

Sanchez said there are explanations for both, neither of which are related.

Because 2010 was his first full season in the majors, Sanchez said he was “just trying to teach my body how 160-something games was.” In other words, he wore down a bit from the fatigue of the long grind.

Last season?

“Last year was tough because I was dealing with some things in my knee, but I felt like I was still hitting the ball well,” Sanchez said of his second-half struggles. “I just was not getting hits. It’s just one of those things that’s baseball. You’re going to go through streaks in baseball where you’re hitting the ball good and not getting any hits out of it.”

Sanchez points out that while his batting average declined, his strikeout rate remained unchanged and his walk rate increased slightly.

“That means I was seeing the ball well and having good [at-bats],” he said. “Definitely, the power numbers weren’t there [in the second half] because I couldn’t hit off my back side.”

But Sanchez said his knee issues are behind him.

He popped an opposite-field home run in the first of two exhibition games against the New York Yankees and has one of the team’s seven hits — a double on Thursday in Cincinnati.

The former University of Miami star is also developing into a fan favorite as evidenced by the ovation he received Wednesday.

Only new manager Ozzie Guillen and new shortstop Jose Reyes received appreciably louder applause.

“I think it just shows that I’m a hometown guy, and I think Miami wants their hometown guy to succeed,” said Sanchez, who was born and raised in Miami.

“It was nice. It was definitely a nice way to start things off.”

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