With Aaron Sanchez making his expected return to the Blue Jays bullpen on Saturday, the club has optioned reliever Steve Delabar to AAA Buffalo. Now returning from injury in a new role, Sanchez hopes to recapture his dominant form from 2014 and pair with Roberto Osuna to form a formidable back end for John Gibbons.
Delabar and Ryan Tepera seemed to be the obvious demotion candidates, and the Blue Jays may have based their decision largely on the pair’s role within the bullpen. While neither had planted their foot to lay claim to a back-end role for the Jays, Delabar did seem to profile as that pitcher more than Tepera did. With Sanchez now in the picture, he became more easily expendable.
The 32-year old had been cruising along nicely for some time, but hit the wall in June with a 9.95 ERA over 6.1 innings pitched. Much like Brett Cecil with the curveball, Delabar can struggle to dominate without his splitter working, and lately, it hasn’t been. Delabar was forthcoming about his displeasure after being left off the 25-man roster on opening day, so it will be interesting how he handles the second snub.
Looking to Sanchez, many have been quick to assume that he will mirror his 2014 performance immediately. The lanky hurler posted an incredible 1.09 ERA over 33.0 relief innings last season, but even if Sanchez is sharp, those numbers will be difficult to replicate.
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His rehab hit a snag in AAA Buffalo earlier this week when Sanchez struggled with control, and although he fared better in his second relief appearance for the Bisons, he still threw just 6 of 14 pitches for strikes. Switching one’s mentality from starting to relieving is not an immediate and easy task, and Sanchez will need to once again show confidence inside the zone.
The incredible movement that Sanchez naturally creates on his fastball should allow him to find success while still hitting the fat parts of the plate, as the late action forces the ball onto the bottom half of hitter’s bats. Ideally, this results in a high number of ground balls, which is always the goal in the Rogers Centre.
This comes across more heartless than I intend it to, but losing Delabar from the bullpen will not be a great loss on the field. With Joba Chamberlain now doing whatever it is he does at AAA and the trade deadline approaching, another addition could soon send Tepera following him to Buffalo. For now, The Sanchize is back, and he could make his debut tonight in Seattle.