DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Right-hander Aaron Sanchez pitched a lot of innings last year. The Blue Jays waited until Saturday for him to make his Grapefruit League debut to help make sure he can do it again this season.The 24-year-old came into to start the fourth inning against the Phillies Saturday
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Right-hander Aaron Sanchez pitched a lot of innings last year. The Blue Jays waited until Saturday for him to make his Grapefruit League debut to help make sure he can do it again this season.
The 24-year-old came into to start the fourth inning against the Phillies Saturday at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. He went 1 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on three hits and a walk. He struck out one. Philadelphia won the game, 8-2.
"What I was trying to get at today was just making sure I felt good," Sanchez said. "Making sure stuff was coming out of my hand well. And I felt like I accomplished that. I was very pleased. I feel like I'm repeating my delivery well with my offspeed and my heater."
The runs he allowed came after he retired the first two batters he faced. Then he walked Aaron Altherr. Cameron Perkins doubled to drive in a run and then scored himself when Nick Williams followed with a single.
Sanchez pitched 203 2/3 innings, included the playoffs, in 2016; his previous career high was 133 1/3 innings at three different levels in 2014.
"We still expect him to throw a lot of innings this year during the regular season," manager John Gibbons said. "This is just a way to back him off and get him a little extra break. He's a strong, young kid. He's going to be workhorse his whole career. So you save a little bit here or there, maybe it helps."
After going 15-2 with a 3.00 ERA in 2016, Sanchez has the credentials to be an Opening Day starter. Gibbons said the final decision hasn't been made yet, but hinted that Sanchez's program could make him a long shot.
"I would have no problem throwing any of them [J.A. Happ, Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada, Francisco Liriano or Sanchez]," Gibbons said. "I think it's an honor to anybody. I think they would all like to. They can't all do it, but whoever we pick, we feel good.
"But with backing [Sanchez] up, he may need a final start down here to get his pitches where we want them, so that could knock him out of that."
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com.