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Blue Jays contemplating Sanchez's role

Expected back in July, rookie right-hander could fill need in rotation or bullpen

TORONTO -- Aaron Sanchez is on the mend, and the Blue Jays must decide what role the rookie right-hander will have when he returns to the big leagues at some point in July.

Sanchez has been on the 15-day disabled list with a strained lat since June 5. He threw off flat ground on Monday and is scheduled to throw off a mound on Wednesday and Saturday.

It's still a little too early to determine an exact timeline for his return, but the thought process about what to do when he gets back is already underway. Similar to Spring Training, the Blue Jays have to figure out whether Sanchez provides more value in the rotation or the bullpen.

"I really loved what he was doing when he was starting," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He was picking up steam, he was moving the right direction, he was really turning into a dominant pitcher. But this setback, it could be a one-time thing we think, and now we have to build him up.

"We've also looked at the 'pen, we have to make it stronger. We like the way it's starting to set up, but you can always make it stronger, and he's a guy we definitely think can do that."

The Blue Jays have a noticeable hole at the back end of their bullpen that needs to be filled in the coming weeks. Rookie right-hander Roberto Osuna has been almost flawless in a relief role, and while there have been some encouraging signs from Steve Delabar and Liam Hendriks, the club needs more depth.

Sanchez could be the answer after proving in 2014 that he could handle closing duties with a 1.09 ERA over 33 innings. The problem with that is Sanchez arguably was the Blue Jays' best starter at the time of his injury with a 2.88 ERA over his final six starts, and changing his role would fill one hole on the roster by creating another.

That's why, more than anything else, Sanchez's job in the second half of the season likely will be determined by what the Blue Jays do prior to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

If Toronto is able to add a potential frontline starter, that would make it easier to move Sanchez out of the rotation. If a starter isn't acquired, it's hard to envision a scenario where the Blue Jays could afford to make such a drastic change.

"Whoever it might be, if you can get him and he makes us better, you get him," Gibbons said of the upcoming Deadline. "Then you adjust off that, whether it's 'pen, rotation and vice versa. But I think every team is looking at that. Everybody has to improve. If you think you're in the thing, you always try to improve."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.
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