Continuing ascent, Sanchez not focused on role

Blue Jays right-hander stifles Royals over eight innings to earn ninth win

July 5th, 2016

TORONTO -- Aaron Sanchez may still end up in the Blue Jays' bullpen this season, but the budding young starter continues to make that decision a difficult one for Toronto's brass.

Sanchez was brilliant once again on Monday evening at Rogers Centre, working a season-high eight innings of one-run ball for a second time in two starts as Toronto defeated the Royals, 6-2.

The 24-year-old right-hander has numbers on par with some of the Majors' elite starters. His 14 quality starts in 17 outings place him in a tie with Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner and Jon Lester, while his .900 winning percentage -- he boasts a 9-1 record -- is the highest by a Blue Jays starter before the All-Star break in franchise history (minimum 15 starts).

Despite the the chatter about his role, Sanchez continues to perform, ignoring the speculation and remaining focused on pitching.

"I just try not to worry about it, to be honest," Sanchez said. "It's [not] my decision; it's out my hands. They're going to make that decision. If it happens, it happens. I'll be ready for that move. It's not like I haven't done it before, but as long as I can stay in the rotation and help this team win, that's my goal."

As the time to make a decision on Sanchez's future approaches, the innings continue to pile up for the Barstow, Calif., native. Sanchez has thrown 113 1/3 innings this season, third in the American League behind Chris Sale of the White Sox and Corey Kluber of the Indians. While a starter the caliber of Sanchez would be instrumental should the Blue Jays make a postseason run, team president Mark Shapiro says the decision will ultimately be made with the righty's long-term future in mind.

"I don't know why absolutes are necessary in anything," Shapiro said prior to Monday's game. "We'll evaluate it as it goes through on a variety of criteria that [general manager] Ross Atkins, [pitching coach] Pete Walker and the staff will put into place. There will be a lot of different things involved in that, performance not being one, but his recovery, his strength and numerous other things."

Sanchez again credited the muscle he added over the offseason for his breakout, which has been fueled by the progression of his sinking fastball and curveball. While Sanchez didn't rack up many strikeouts on this night -- he had a season-low three -- he managed to limit the Royals to three hits, recording nine groundouts and finishing with an economical 96 pitches in his fourth straight quality start.

"I think a little bit of everything [was working]," Sanchez said. "Early on, I really didn't go to my changeup. Late, it was effective. My curveball was good early, OK late, but any time I can get depth on my sinker, it's always going to be a good night for me."