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Locked-in Sanchez stellar against Braves

Right-hander goes 6 1/3 innings; 'I'm where I need to be'
Special to MLB.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Aaron Sanchez got everything he wanted out of his most important start of Spring Training.

"I tried to treat today like it was a regular-season game," the Blue Jays right-hander said Monday after giving up two runs (one earned) on two hits in 6 1/3 innings against the Atlanta Braves in a 6-0 loss. "I think today was a good test, and I'm where I need to be."

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Aaron Sanchez got everything he wanted out of his most important start of Spring Training.

"I tried to treat today like it was a regular-season game," the Blue Jays right-hander said Monday after giving up two runs (one earned) on two hits in 6 1/3 innings against the Atlanta Braves in a 6-0 loss. "I think today was a good test, and I'm where I need to be."

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Most importantly, the 25-year-old has had a blister-free spring.

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"I'm finally free to go out there and compete with no cage on me," he said. "I felt like last year I was in a cage, not being able to go out and do the things that I was able to do the year before at a high level because my finger wouldn't cooperate."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

After going 15-2 and leading the American League with a 3.00 ERA in 2016, Sanchez had his follow-up season ruined by a lingering blister issue in his right middle finger. He started three games in April, two in May and three more in July, never getting out of the cage.

"I'm just finally beyond all the stuff that was going on last year, and just going out there to compete," he said. "You take for granted sometimes that this is a privilege to do, so I'm just happy that I'm here doing my thing."

Sanchez has two walks and 16 strikeouts in 17 2/3 spring innings. He threw 81 pitches Monday, striking out four and walking none.

"He got 12 outs on ground balls, so that's a pretty good indication he had some sink movement. He used both side of the plate, used all his pitches. That's a pretty good outing," said bench coach DeMarlo Hale.

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"I felt the more I got loose, the better my stuff got," Sanchez said. "A little erratic with my heater from the beginning, but from the fourth inning on I felt like I was pretty locked in with my stuff."

Sanchez will start the season in the rotation, just as he did last season and the year before. Whether he can duplicate his 192 innings and/or 30 starts of 2016 remains to be seen.

"I'll do that if I'm healthy," he said. "Health comes first and when that comes, everything else falls into place."

Errors hurt Blue Jays
The Braves got their only earned run off Sanchez after a triple by Ozzie Albies that could have been an out. Albies hit a chopper past first baseman Kendrys Morales that bounced into the corner where right fielder Teoscar Hernandez had trouble retrieving it. Albies then scored on a sacrifice fly. Atlanta tacked on five runs in the seventh, with the help of throwing errors Gift Ngoepe and Jon Berti, on its way to a 6-0 win. Four of the runs were charged to Ryan Tepera, who gave up three hits and a walk. Hernandez had two of the Blue Jays' four hits.

Grichuk resumes swinging bat
Outfielder Randal Grichuk, limited to 17 at-bats by a sprained left wrist and rib-cage soreness, is hitting again and hopes to get in a game sometime this week.

"We'll see how he responds after [Monday's workout in Dunedin] and look forward to getting him in and getting him some at-bats," Hale said.

Up next
Marco Estrada, who has pitched only eight innings this spring, will make his fourth start Tuesday against the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater, Fla., at 1:05 p.m. ET. The game can be seen on MLB Network and MLB.TV

Dick Scanlon is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Blue Jays on Monday.

Toronto Blue Jays, Aaron Sanchez