DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Aaron Sanchez made his long-awaited return to the mound Sunday afternoon, and there were some noticeable signs of rust, but his upper-90s sinker was alive and well.
Facing opposing hitters for the first time since July 19, Sanchez threw 22 pitches and consistently hit 95-96 mph on the radar gun. His command was off as he allowed a pair of runs on two hits and a hit batter over one inning during Toronto's 6-3 loss to the Tigers at Dunedin Stadium.
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More importantly, there were no signs of the blister that limited Sanchez to 36 innings in 2017. Sanchez did not feel any pain and has moved well beyond the point of needing to constantly look at his hand to make sure everything is fine.
"I think my finger is in a good spot," Sanchez said. "There were no issues today. I didn't even hesitate, to look at it once, nothing on my fingers gave me discomfort. Everything I was trying to accomplish that way was good. The competitor in me wasn't happy with the other side. It's about finding a balance. I'll take today with a grain of salt and just move forward."
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The lack of consistent command is what bothered Sanchez the most. His curveball hung up in the middle of the zone and his fastball was a bit wild at times. Sanchez's third pitch -- the changeup -- was actually his best offering, but none of that really matters right now.
The Blue Jays are more concerned with Sanchez building up his endurance -- and getting through the spring healthy -- than anything else. Bullpens are one thing, getting into a rhythm and establishing a level of comfort with hitters in the box, is another.
It's going to take a bit of time for Sanchez to round into form, but this was a good first step.
"I probably could have had a clean inning if I threw all fastballs, but I need to go out there and work on what I need to work on," Sanchez said. "Curveball, I have to go watch it. It looked like it was middle-middle. But the good thing is I got ahead of guys. I established my fastball, threw some good changeups. A good day of work."
Sanchez began his outing by getting ahead 1-2 on Jim Adduci. The 25-year-old then threw a pair of back-to-back hanging curveballs. The first missed inside, but Adduci shot the second one into right field for a leadoff single. Sanchez bounced back with a three-pitch strikeout of Victor Reyes before hitting the next batter with a 96-mph fastball.
The big blow of the inning came next when Ronny Rodriguez hit a two-run double into the left-field corner. The double was a little bit of a looper and wasn't what had Sanchez a little upset. Instead, it was the two breaking balls to Adduci and the hit batter.
"I felt like command was good; it can be better," Sanchez said. "I tried going in with a fastball on one guy. Too far in, hit him. Other than him, I thought I was around the plate. My misses were fine ... it's just good to get back out there in action like that, competing against the other team. Even though it's only Spring Training it has been awhile for me. I'm glad I'm out there but [ticked off] because it needs to be better."