Dig­i­tal fu­ture bright, says ‘ happy’ Sanchez

National Post (Latest Edition) - - SPORTS - Steve Ewen sewen@ post­media. com

Ain Van­cou­ver aron Sanchez has a new con­tract and the same old feel­ings about the New York Yan­kees.

The right- handed pitcher is in the Lower Main­land this week­end as part of the Toronto Blue Jays win­ter tour and dur­ing a visit with the me­dia on Fri­day at Gil­more Com­mu­nity School in Burn­aby, Sanchez con­firmed that he had come to an agree­ment with the club.

Re­ports have Sanchez reach­ing a one-year, $2.7 mil­lion con­tract to avoid ar­bi­tra­tion on Fri­day.

The sign­ing was one of sev­eral top­ics touched on by Sanchez, 25, among them his thoughts on fac­ing the arch ri­val Yan­kees af­ter they added 59 home run man Gian­carlo Stan­ton this off- sea­son to a lineup that al­ready fea­tured Aaron Judge, he of the 52 homers last sea­son.

“I ain’t wor­ried. It’s all ( on) pa­per right now,” said Sanchez, a 2010 first- round pick by Toronto whose mi­nor league path in­cluded a stop in 2011 with the Van­cou­ver Cana­di­ans.

“You still have to go out and per­form. I’ll be ready just as much as they will be.”

As for get­ting his con­tract fi­nal­ized, Sanchez ex­plained: “I let my peo­ple han­dle it. I wasn’t in a lot of the talks. But, yeah, def­i­nitely, I’m happy.”

The Blue Jays and their fans will want him to be healthy, con­sid­er­ing his in­jury troubles played a role in Toronto fin­ish­ing a ped- es­trian 76- 86 in 2017 af­ter mak­ing the play­offs the two pre­vi­ous sea­sons.

Sanchez had a break­out sea­son in 2016, fin­ish­ing 15- 2 with an Amer­i­can League best 3.00 earned run av­er­age. He looked set to be­come a peren­nial all-star, but blis­ter is­sues lim­ited him to just eight starts to­talling 36 in­nings last year.

He said Fri­day that he’s been long toss­ing four weeks and has had no is­sues along the way.

“I think the frus­trat­ing part for me was it be­ing so lit­tle, so tiny,” Sanchez said of the blis­ter prob­lems. “I’m glad it was that. It could be other body parts. I’m just glad we nipped this in the bud now.

“It’s not to say that this prob­lem won’t ever come up, be­cause we don’t know that. I dealt with it in ’ 16 and was an all-star and won an ERA ti­tle,’’ he said. “I’m pretty con­fi­dent that my fin­ger, the way it is, will be fine this year. I’ll have to main­tain it but I had to in years past, but no more of the dis­as­ter of last year.”

The “how- to” for main­tain­ing from Sanchez was ex­ten­sive. He talked about things like skin on his fin­ger and the length of his fin­ger nails and be­ing aware of the el­e­ments, ex­plain­ing, “hu­mid­ity plays a big fac­tor.”

“A lot of it is fric­tion and force from the game,” Sanchez said. “Hope­fully we can get this all fixed and moved on.”

The Blue Jays inked sev­eral play­ers just prior to Fri­day af­ter­noon’s dead­line for teams and play­ers to ex­change fig­ures in prepa­ra­tion for the ar­bi­tra­tion process. That in­cluded third base­man Josh Don­ald­son, the power hit­ter sign­ing a one- year con­tract worth $23 mil­lion, which is record for a pre-ar­bi­tra­tion set­tle­ment.

“Josh is a huge com­po­nent to our team and to our suc­cess. It’s not only what he brings on the baseball field but also to the club­house. He’s a great dude to be around. He’s a good leader,” said Sanchez.

Sanchez is joined on this trip by fel­low right- han­der Marco Estrada, first base­man Justin Smoak and out­fielder Dal­ton Pom­pey. Their Satur­day sched­ule in­cludes an au­to­graph ses­sion at the Van­cou­ver Con­ven­tion Cen­tre. Fans had to get tickets in ad­vance.

Sanchez is fa­mil­iar with the area. He was part of the Cana­di­ans team that won the short- sea­son, sin­gle-A North­west League ti­tle in 2011.

“I think, for me, it’s about get­ting to en­gage with the fans on the west coast,” Sanchez said of this lat­est Blue Jays’ win­ter ex­cur­sion. “We give so many op­por­tu­ni­ties to the fans in Toronto and the eastern part of this coun­try.

“There’s a lot of love here. You go down to Seat­tle and it’s like a home game for us.”

I’M JUST GLAD WE NIPPED THIS IN THE BUD NOW.

CRAIG ROBERT­SON / POST­MEDIA NEWS FILES

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Sanchez, who missed most of last sea­son be­cause of blis­ter prob­lems, signed a oneyear deal worth $2.7 mil­lion with the team Fri­day. He hopes he’s put his in­jury prob­lems be­hind him.

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