DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays starter Aaron Sanchez showed no signs of the lingering injuries that cost him most of the 2017 season after throwing his first session of live batting practice on Tuesday. The 25-year-old right-hander saw action against a group that included sluggers Kendrys Morales, Steve Pearce, Justin
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays starter Aaron Sanchez showed no signs of the lingering injuries that cost him most of the 2017 season after throwing his first session of live batting practice on Tuesday. The 25-year-old right-hander saw action against a group that included sluggers Kendrys Morales, Steve Pearce, Justin Smoak and Josh Donaldson at the Bobby Mattick Training Center practice fields.
"In terms of how I felt and the ball coming out of my hand, there were no issues," Sanchez said. "I felt like the action was really good. My command was really good. No issues with the finger, which is a huge plus. Arm felt good. Body felt good. All signs were positive."
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Sanchez was limited to eight starts in 2017 because of recurring blister issues on the middle finger of his pitching hand. He went 1-3 with a 4.25 ERA over 36 innings. Even when he was able to get on the mound, he was nagged by control problems, issuing 20 walks in the limited span.
Tuesday was Sanchez's first time facing live hitters since July. The righty, who lives in the Tampa Bay area in the offseason, said that he feels ahead of schedule after reporting to camp early again this spring.
"We'll just keep checking every box off as we get there, and hopefully we'll continue to go at a solid pace," Sanchez said. "I think I've thrown off the mound seven or eight times before today, so I know where I need to be, and I feel like I'm there."
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Toronto manager John Gibbons is optimistic that Sanchez can bounce back to be the pitcher who had a breakout 2016 season, when he went 15-2 with a 3.00 ERA in his first full year in the Blue Jays' rotation.
"He really looked like midseason form, and that's exciting to see," Gibbons said. "Everything came out nice and easy and really locked in. I didn't expect to see him that good."
Scary moment at camp
Pitching coach Pete Walker gave players and fans a bit of a scare after he collapsed on the team's practice field on Tuesday. Walker was struck by a ball while standing behind the protective cage during live batting practice.
Walker, who has been with the team since 2012, lay on the ground for several minutes while training staff attended to him. He was able to wave to the fans as he was escorted back to the team's facilities before being taken to a nearby hospital for observation.
"He is feeling clear-headed now, and all his vital [signs] are fine," general manager Ross Atkins said. "He was in good spirits and laughing with the guys and right back to being himself, but that's something that we are going to take seriously and make sure that he is 100 percent. All signs are that he is."
Atkins likes what he has seen so far this spring from shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, even if he isn't fully ready to go by Opening Day.
"There's a few more tests that he will have to go through that we'll have a lot more confidence once he does," Atkins said. "All of the subjective comments are great. He's moving around well. We are encouraged and optimistic. Time will tell, and there are a few more benchmarks for us."
J. Scott Butherus is a contributor to MLB.com.