Sanchez reflects on debut amid strong spring

Righty fans 5 in 3 IP Thursday; Clippard may have versatile 'pen role; Gurriel leaves game

March 8th, 2018

SARASOTA, Fla. -- took a walk down memory lane on Thursday afternoon, reflecting on his own journey to the Major Leagues while watching top prospects Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette make their Spring Training debuts.
With the future of Toronto's organization on full display, Sanchez could not help but be reminded of the time he was invited to make a spring start against the Rays, back in 2014. It was the first time Sanchez faced big league hitters as a starter, and it marked a turning point in his career as he tossed 5 1/3 scoreless innings.
"It was like, man, whether you like it or not, you have to make this start," Sanchez said. "At that point you're just competing. Once you throw the first pitch, regardless what that name said on the back, regardless who you watched when you were a kid or whatever, I think that goes out the window and it's your time to show them what you got. That's kind of how I approached it when I was their age."
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That outing four years ago was an audition of sorts, but Sanchez's latest start was a tuneup. The 25-year-old righty allowed one run on four hits while walking one and striking out five over three innings against the Orioles in a game Toronto won, 9-3. He appeared to get stronger as the game went along; afterwards he chalked that up to simply settling in.
"I think for me, today was just to build off what I brought in from my start on Saturday," said Sanchez, who has allowed three runs in seven innings this spring. "I felt like there were some obstacles early on that I got to overcome, in terms of being on the road and getting that routine down. Sitting before I go out and pitch. The mound was a little bit higher than I've pitched on in recent outings. I think all of those in play, overcoming that, and finishing strong like I did, I would say it was a pretty good day."
Mr. Versatility
The Blue Jays have been auditioning multiple relievers for the job of second lefty out of the bullpen, but it's possible they will turn to a right-handed pitcher for the role instead. Veteran , who signed a Minor League deal with an invitation to Spring Training on Wednesday, has better career numbers vs. lefties than he does righties, and there's a chance that part of his role with the Blue Jays will be handling batters from the opposite side of the plate.
Opponents from the left side have a career .597 OPS while righties have a mark of .660. Clippard said he volunteered for whatever role the Blue Jays need him for. Long relief, set-up man, closer, left-handed specialist -- it doesn't matter, Clippard says. He just wants an opportunity to make amends after posting a 4.77 ERA in a trying 2017 season with three different teams.

"That's because he has always had one of the better changeups in the game," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said, of Clippard's success vs. lefties. "He has been around. He has been on some winning teams. He's been under the gun. He was waiting to get signed. He'll pitch in a game tomorrow and we'll see how it all plays out."
Injury updates
played catch on Thursday morning for the first time since being temporarily shut down with inflammation in his right shoulder. Stroman likely will have to repeat that process a couple of more times before he gets back on the mound and gradually begins to build up his endurance. He remains doubtful for the start of the season.
• Infielder left Thursday's game against the Orioles in the top of the third inning following an awkward play at second base. Gurriel attempted to make a sliding play in shallow right field when he appeared to roll one of his ankles. Gurriel initially remained in the game, but after an RBI single in the top of the third he was removed for pinch-runner Bichette.
Up next
Veteran right-hander will take the mound when the Blue Jays host the Orioles on Friday afternoon at Dunedin Stadium with first pitch scheduled for 1:07 p.m. ET. Toronto is expected to have most of its regulars in the lineup after the club used mostly prospects the day before in Sarasota. The game will be broadcast live on Gameday Audio.