Blue Jays: Sanchez to the pen makes sense for now

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 14: Aaron Sanchez
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 14: Aaron Sanchez /

After Saturday’s win against the Pirates, John Gibbons was asked about the future of his rotation this season. While a lot remains up in the air, Gibbons dropped an interesting nugget in that Aaron Sanchez may return to the bullpen for what’s left of this season.

It’s been a long and frustrating season for Aaron Sanchez, who has made four separate trips to the sidelines this year with blister and fingernail issues. It wasn’t how the Blue Jays or the 2016 AL ERA leader had envisioned his season going, but these things happen in baseball sometimes.

The 25 year old is also running out of time to make it back to the field in 2017, a goal that both he and the Blue Jays would like to see accomplished before the season has concluded. He continues to rest and receive treatment for the issue, but there is no set timetable for his return at this point.

After Saturday’s game in which rookie Chris Rowley impressed in his Major League debut, John Gibbons was asked by Sportsnet about how the rotation could look for the rest of the season. Rowley certainly impressed on Saturday, and with just Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ, and Marco Estrada as established veterans in the rotation, there are innings to cover to be sure. Joe Biagini has been sent down to Triple A to stretch out and re-join the rotation, but he threw just 65 pitches in his last start, and is likely another turn or two away from coming back to Toronto.

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Gibbons mentioned a significant news nugget, that Sanchez could return as a member of the bullpen in 2017, assuming his finger will allow him to pitch in a live game again before the end of the year. Given his uncertain timetable, it makes sense that the club is exploring different options.

However, the more you look at this idea in particular, the more it makes sense for a ton of reasons.

First of all, the minor league season is nearing it’s conclusion, and that’s where Sanchez would be pitching in order to build up his arm strength. If the MiLB season is over by the time he’s ready to throw (and it appears that’ll be the case), then he won’t have anywhere to adequately stretch out and prepare to enough pitches to be used as a starter.

"“I do think it’s important that he finishes the season pitching, one way or another. I think it would be good for his psyche heading into the off-season.” – John Gibbons"

If he can’t build up his pitch count, then it makes no sense whatsoever for the Blue Jays to risk using him as a starter, even if he never wanted to return to the bullpen again. This would be a temporary solution, which would allow him to get back on the mound in 2017, which is an important step for the former first round pick.

Secondly, it could serve as a good test for him to see how his finger reacts to shorter stints on the mound. Not that you’re going to glean a lot of data from the sample size, but if he can’t keep the blister issues under control when pitching just an inning or two at a time, that will worth considering as he goes through his offseason preparations and treatments.

Lastly, as Gibbons indicated it would be good for Sanchez to get back on the mound and build some positive momentum going into the offseason. The 2017 campaign has been a complete nightmare for him, so anything he can use to build into next year will be a plus.

He’s too talented to be held down forever, so hopefully he can make his way back to the mound this year, even if it’s out of the bullpen, and we’ll eventually see him winning ERA titles, earning All-Star honours, and hopefully one day challenging for the Cy Young. The upside is there, he just needs to find a way to stay healthy.

Next: If they move Estrada, who might be interested?