TORONTO -- After injuries have impacted Aaron Sanchez's past two seasons with the Blue Jays, the right-hander could not help but question whether he would ever make it back to pitch again in 2018.Sanchez is set to return, likely for Saturday's game against the Phillies, after another extended absence. It
TORONTO -- After injuries have impacted Aaron Sanchez's past two seasons with the Blue Jays, the right-hander could not help but question whether he would ever make it back to pitch again in 2018.
Sanchez is set to return, likely for Saturday's game against the Phillies, after another extended absence. It was a blister on his right hand that affected him in 2017, and this season it was a right middle finger contusion that cost him more than two months.
The 26-year-old Sanchez is almost two years removed from a breakout 2016 campaign that saw him post a 3.00 ERA, which was the best among qualified pitchers in the American League. The level of frustration is readily apparent, and now the focus shifts to finishing the year strong so there is at least something positive to build on next spring.
"Honestly, I didn't think I was going to make it back here," Sanchez said. "I missed so much time the last few years. Just to be able to be back here and hopefully contribute this last month and a half is what I'm looking forward to."
Sanchez has been out since June 21, when he lasted just one inning in a start against the Angels. He publicly revealed for the first time on Wednesday morning how the injury happened. Sanchez said his finger got stuck in a piece of his luggage, and when the bag fell, it jammed and popped his finger.
Sanchez didn't think too much about it at first. He tried stretching his finger, and while there was a lot of pain, it didn't stop him from taking the mound against Los Angeles later that night, as he made a start for the first time in front of his friends and family from nearby Barstow, Calif.
The swelling got worse as the day went on and Sanchez had to be taken out after 25 pitches. From there, it was a long road to recovery that required an initial period of rest followed by getting stretched back out, as Sanchez essentially had to go through Spring Training all over again.
"If I had the [answer], I would have been back a lot sooner," Sanchez said when asked why it took so long to come back. "Honestly, I don't know. It was super swollen, I could barely bend my finger. They said there was nothing structurally damaged. I started playing catch, it wasn't getting any better.
"I took four days off. That was right around the All-Star break. Then I started playing catch every other day and it started responding better. Then I was able to play catch every day from that week moving forward. At that point, I've missed so much time I can't go right into games. You have to build back up and start the progression. That's why it took so long."
Sanchez is scheduled to throw a side session on Thursday, and if all goes well, he will take the mound vs. Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon. Sanchez is 3-5 with a 4.52 ERA in 15 starts this season after being limited to eight starts a year ago because of the blister issue.
Sanchez, a former first-round pick, made three official rehab appearances before rejoining his teammates in Toronto. He allowed nine runs (eight earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks over 11 innings. The numbers aren't pretty, but the righty was adamant that he was throwing pitches in counts he normally wouldn't and was working on specific things, just like he would have in the spring.
"I'll throw a side [session] tomorrow, I don't see anything going wrong there," Sanchez said. "After that, it's up to them. The plan is to pitch Saturday. I'm ready to pitch Saturday. I was ready to come back after my last start, but I felt like it was good to make sure that I got that start to get me to 100 pitches so that when I come back here, I didn't have any restrictions in terms of pitch count or leaving the game early."
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.