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Nationals again boost rotation, agree to deal with Sanchez

File-This Oct. 5, 2018, file photo shows Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez throwing to a Los Angeles Dodgers batter during the first inning of Game 2 of a baseball National League Division Series in Los Angeles. The Washington Nationals have agreed to terms on a two-year contract with Sanchez. The deal, announced Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018, by the Nationals, includes a team option for 2021. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Anibal Sanchez has a new team and his same catcher.

The Washington Nationals agreed to terms on a two-year, $19 million contract with right-hander Anibal Sanchez on Thursday.

The deal includes a team option for 2021.

Sanchez, 34, will add depth to Washington’s new-look rotation after boosting his appeal with a comeback season for NL East rival Atlanta. The Nationals signed Patrick Corbin to a six-year deal earlier this month.

Sanchez said the two-year deal was important at his age.

He said another factor was maintaining his relationship with catcher Kurt Suzuki, who he said was important to his success with the Braves in 2018. Suzuki signed a two-year, $10 million deal with Washington last month.

“That’s a big thing for me, especially because the way I pitch in 2018, Suzuki was involved in every change I made,” Sanchez said in a conference call with reporters. “Every sequence that we work for, Suzuki was very involved. … I know the pitches he calls for. We’ve got a really good relationship between pitcher and catcher in the game.”

Sanchez, a native of Maracay, Venezuela, was perhaps the Braves’ most consistent starter as he posted a 2.83 ERA in 25 games, including 24 starts. He was 7-6 and had 135 strikeouts in 136 2/3 innings. It was a remarkable turnaround after Sanchez struggled in 2017 with a 6.41 ERA with Detroit.

The 2018 ERA was the second-best of his career, behind his 2.57 mark in 2013 with Detroit, and sixth-lowest among NL pitchers with at least 24 starts.

The Nationals traded Tanner Roark to the Reds this offseason, leaving Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Corbin and Sanchez as their projected top four starters.

Sanchez joins a longtime familiar opponent. He began his career in the NL East with the Marlins in 2006. He helped the Braves win the NL East in 2018, but he said the Nationals “have always been on the top of the division.”

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