Blue Jays: What can we expect from Aaron Sanchez in 2018?

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 8: Aaron Sanchez
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 8: Aaron Sanchez /

Now that Aaron Sanchez has been officially ruled out for the remainder of the season, what kind of expectations can we have for him in 2018?

It was a nightmare season for several Blue Jays’ players, but perhaps none more than Aaron Sanchez. The right-hander was limited to just eight starts, making four trips to the disabled list that all but completely wiped out his season. As frustrating as that was, it was even more maddening that it wasn’t elbow or shoulder problems for the starter, but rather a series of blister and fingernail issues.

Earlier this week, Sanchez was ruled out for the remainder of the season because doctors discovered that he’s now dealing with a a ligament issue as well, called a “pulley” ligament. The thought is that he likely did the damage because he was compensating for the blisters with his grip. It’s just another problem is a season that was rife with them for the 25 year old.

As noted by Jeff Blair of Sportsnet, it’s not known how Sanchez proceeds from here, or what kind of timeline he’ll be on. Due to the newest injury discovery, he’s not supposed to be gripping ANYTHING for awhile, which is somehow a step back from where we thought he had progressed to, even without returning to the mound.

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So where do Sanchez and the Blue Jays go from here? During the press conference the other day, the talented pitcher looked exasperated, frustrated, and tired of answering the same questions, over and over. That said, the questions won’t go away until the injury issues do, and things could take an uglier turn if they continue into 2018. All parties are growing restless with the issue, including Sanchez, his agent Scott Boras, the fan base, and the Blue Jays themselves.

In Blair’s article for Sportsnet, he noted that Sanchez keeps two balls in his locker, one from this season and another from 2016. The pitcher is obviously adamant that there is a difference between the two baseballs, and recently even showed them to former MLB players and Blue Jays’ broadcasters, Buck Martinez and Joe Siddall.

"Sunday, he (Sanchez) asked me (Blair) to see if I could determine a difference – the seams felt rougher on the 2017 ball – but that’s irrelevant. This is a tactile thing and reporters and broadcasters don’t have the feel for it unless they’re former catchers or pitchers. So Buck Martinez and Joe Siddall, the Blue Jays broadcasters who are both former catchers, took turns with the two balls. Both of them and Sanchez agreed there was less give on the hide of the 2017 ball."

Of course, the ball is unlikely to have much of a change in 2018, unless of course the player’s union really puts pressure on the MLB to take a closer look. There have been complaints from other pitchers and agents around the game this year, including the Blue Jays’ Marcus Stroman, so maybe there will be another tweak before next year, though I don’t think anyone can count on that for sure.

More likely, Sanchez and the training staff will have to find a way to heal the problems and permanently put them in the rear view mirror. So far, that’s been a seemingly impossible task, with Sanchez even noting that he’d tried “pickle juice” as well, an old school remedy that some pitchers like Al Leiter used a few decades ago. That didn’t work either, and now that they’ve discovered the “pulley” ligament issue, it’s very difficult to predict a timeline. Hopefully he can be ready to begin a normal spring training program, but at this point nothing is guaranteed.

With that in mind, the Blue Jays might have to approach their offseason a little differently, at least in the form of bringing in some solid depth in the rotation. The club has been very cautious with Sanchez throughout these problems, but at some point they’re going to have to get him on the field, or perhaps look at a other changes, like whether or not his body will allow him to be a starting pitcher at the highest level.

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That sounds ridiculous, but so does missing an entire year because of blister and fingernail issues. None of us expected this outcome, and hopefully it’ll be a footnote on an otherwise decorated career for the former first round pick.