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Blister issues behind him, Sanchez raring to go

Blue Jays righty solid in Minor League game, ready for Friday start
MLB.com @gregorMLB

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Aaron Sanchez passed every test this spring with flying colors. Now comes the biggest challenge of all: the regular season.

Sanchez made his final appearance of the spring in a Minor League game against the Phillies on Saturday afternoon. Toronto's No. 2 starter allowed three hits and did not walk a batter while striking out three over four scoreless frames.

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DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Aaron Sanchez passed every test this spring with flying colors. Now comes the biggest challenge of all: the regular season.

Sanchez made his final appearance of the spring in a Minor League game against the Phillies on Saturday afternoon. Toronto's No. 2 starter allowed three hits and did not walk a batter while striking out three over four scoreless frames.

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The 25-year-old threw 36 of his 55 pitches for strikes and his work is done until Friday, when the Blue Jays play their second regular-season game of the year against the Yankees. It will mark Sanchez's first time on a big league mound since last July following a season in which he was limited to eight appearances because of blister issues.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"I'm going to be excited," Sanchez said. "I'm nervous before every game, that's just kind of how I operate. I think it's just making sure I'm prepared. But I think once those lights turn on and he says, 'Play ball,' it goes back to everything I've done my whole life -- and that's compete and play baseball."

The most important part of Sanchez's spring is that there were no signs of the blister issues that derailed his 2017 season. Sanchez took the ball every fifth day and the skin around his right middle finger remained intact. That might not seem like that big of a deal after an offseason of rest, but blisters are notoriously difficult to predict and no one really knew how this spring would go.

The second important part of Sanchez's spring was how quickly he shook off the rust. During Sanchez's early bullpen work, his command was all over the place. His sinker is tough to control at the best of times, and during his initial bullpen sessions it didn't really seem like Sanchez had any idea where it would end up.

Those issues were present during Sanchez's first start of the spring as well, but since then it has been a different story. His last official Grapefruit League start came on Monday, when he allowed one earned run while striking out four over 6 1/3 innings against the Braves. Sanchez finished his spring allowing six earned runs on 15 hits over 17 2/3 innings. He struck out 16 and walked only two.

"I knew what I needed to accomplish when I came into Spring Training to be ready for the year because I missed so much time last year," Sanchez said. "There was a lot of emphasis on a lot of things this year and I felt like I accomplished it. If I didn't accomplish the things I wanted to, I'm super close. It's what I do. I come here to work. I know what I need to do."

Video: 30 Clubs in 30 Days: Sanchez on overcoming injuries

Sanchez's hope is that this will be the last spring he ever has to talk about the blister. He knows the Blue Jays need him to pitch a full season to have a chance against the Yankees and Red Sox, but instead of dwelling on what might go wrong, Sanchez has been trying to find the positives from last year's lost season.

The Yankees haven't seen Sanchez since 2016. The Red Sox only saw him once last season, while the Rays and Orioles faced him just twice. Sanchez's arm and shoulder might be more rested than at any point of his career. These aren't the type of things that will make or break a season, but Sanchez hopes the time away will give him a bit of an advantage.

Of course, none of that will really matter come Friday.

"When the lights come on, the adrenaline kicks in," Sanchez said. "I think everything you're trying to accomplish goes out the door. I think it's win that game. For me, it's just to come out here and make sure my stuff is where it needs to be. ... I felt like I was pretty focused on every pitch in what I was trying to do and I felt like I accomplished it well."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays, Aaron Sanchez