Healthy Sanchez could keep Jays well armed

The Province - - SPORTS - STEVE BUF­FERY sbuffery@post­media.com

DUNEDIN — Aaron Sanchez threw off the mound on Wed­nes­day and looked like the dom­i­nant pitcher he was in 2016.

“The ball was com­ing out free and easy, lot of life to it, good move­ment,” said Toronto catcher Rus­sell Martin. “But all his pitches, they looked the same com­ing out and that’s kind of the key as a pitcher — the art of de­cep­tion. Ev­ery­thing has to look the same. The change-up was com­ing out nice, the break­ing stuff was sharp. The de­liv­ery just looked clean and he looked com­fort­able out there. Def­i­nitely good for a first day of work.”

It’s no se­cret that if the Toronto Blue Jays are go­ing to have any chance of mak­ing the play­offs this sea­son, Sanchez has to round back into form.

The Amer­i­can League ERA leader two sea­sons ago (3.00 with a 15-2 record), Sanchez suf­fered through a mis­er­able cam­paign in 2017, land­ing on the DL four times as a re­sult of blis­ter is­sues on his right mid­dle fin­ger that re­sulted in him throw­ing only 36 in­nings with a 4.25 ERA.

Af­ter con­sult­ing nu­mer­ous spe­cial­ists, Sanchez and the Jays are hope­ful the 25-year-old can bounce back. From what he saw on Wed­nes­day at Bobby Mattick Train­ing Cen­tre, Rus­sell is op­ti­mistic.

“I be­lieve he’s one of the best pitch­ers in the league, so if you can get a guy like that to stay healthy the whole year, it’s def­i­nitely go­ing to help us,” Martin said.

There’s a feel­ing at spring train­ing that if the Jays’ ro­ta­tion — Sanchez, Mar­cus Stro­man, J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada and per­haps Joe Bi­agini — can stay healthy, they do have a vi­able shot of at least earn­ing a wild-card spot.

“Tremen­dous arms there,” Martin said. “I def­i­nitely think that with that type of tal­ent you can beat the best of­fences. We all know the Amer­i­can League has a ton of hit­ting, so we’re go­ing to need our pitch­ing.”

GM Ross Atkins has said the club is pur­su­ing an­other starter via a trade or free agency, which would al­low Bi­agini, who strug­gled as a starter last year, to go back to the bullpen.

■ One of the big­gest sto­ries at spring train­ing for the Blue Jays this year will be how Josh Don­ald­son han­dles all the ques­tions about his fu­ture.

The all-star third base­man and 2015 AL MVP be­comes a free agent af­ter the 2018 sea­son and there has al­ready been a ton of de­bate as to whether he signs an ex­ten­sion with the Blue Jays or gets traded be­fore the sea­son is done.

Jays man­ager John Gibbons isn’t wor­ried about his star third base­man be­com­ing dis­tracted.

“He’s prob­a­bly the most mo­ti­vated guy I’ve ever been around, in his own way,” Gibbons said. “So I think the fact he’s a free agent at the end of this year is only go­ing to help him.”

■ Gibbons is con­fi­dent start­ing mid­dle in­field­ers, short­stop Troy Tu­low­itzki (ham­string in­jury and sprained right an­kle) and sec­ond base­man Devon Travis (right knee surgery) will be ready to start the sea­son.

Travis is con­sid­ered the best pure hit­ter on the ros­ter but has been un­able to stay off the DL.

— THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Pitcher Aaron Sanchez, shown dur­ing spring train­ing Wed­nes­day in Dunedin, Fla., could be key to the Toronto Blue Jays’ hopes for a re­turn to the play­offs in 2018.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.