Blue Jays: Aaron Sanchez set to return after a bizarre absence

Aaron Sanchez will finally return to the mound for the Blue Jays this weekend, ending an absence of more than two months because of a freak accident.

Just when we thought Aaron Sanchez‘s luck was bad enough after dealing with  season long blister/fingernail/tendon issues in 2017, the news from earlier this week took it to a whole other level. Sanchez and the team finally revealed that reason for his absence all this time was because of a freak injury that happened involving a suitcase.

Yeah, you heard that right.

I don’t throw around the term “snake bitten” very often, but I can’t think of a more apt description for Sanchez’s last couple years as a pro. In 2016 he looked like he was on the cusp of becoming a perennial Cy Young contender, winning the AL ERA title, and dominating at the top of the Blue Jays’ rotation. Since then he’s been almost a non-factor, making just eight starts last season, and managing 15 this year before his extended absence.

I don’t know if we’ll ever get more details than what was already revealed, and it honestly doesn’t really matter. The fact is, the Blue Jays lost him for another two months, and unfortunately 2018 will likely go down as another mostly lost season for the former first round pick. Given the amount of talent in his right arm when he’s healthy, that’s a real shame.

That said, he’ll have a chance to salvage what’s left of the remainder of this season when he returns to the mound on Saturday against the Phillies. After a successful side session yesterday, the Blue Jays appear to have liked what they saw enough to put him back in the rotation. Given that they recently lost Marcus Stroman to the disabled list with blister issues of his own, the timing is certainly nice for John Gibbons and the Blue Jays. Sanchez also made three rehab starts in an effort to get himself ready to return, and so far things have gone well.

Hopefully this return will finally bring an extended streak of health for the 26 year old. His star may have lost a little bit of the shine from a couple years ago, but there’s no doubt that he’s got the talent to be a true asset to a big league rotation, and maybe even an ace if he can ever stay on the field long enough to build on his successes. When he was healthy this year he wasn’t necessarily at his best either, posting a 3-5 record with a 4.52 ERA and 1.502 WHIP in his 15 starts. He had been better before hitting the DL though, so it was a shame to see him lose the momentum that appeared to be building.

It would be very encouraging to see him finish the remainder of this campaign off both healthy, and hopefully back in a place where that potential is evident again. He won’t have enough time to completely change the narrative before the season is over, but with two years of control remaining on his contract in Toronto, building toward a strong 2019 is crucial for the player, and the franchise.

If all goes well he’ll be counted on to lead a young Blue Jays rotation, and very likely a younger pitching staff than we’ve seen in Toronto in some time. Not so long ago Sanchez was the young kid in the bullpen and the rotation, and as soon as next year he could be counted on to hold an important veteran leadership role. With a rotation that could realistically include guys like Ryan Borucki, Sean Reid-Foley, Thomas Pannone, and possibly others, he and Stroman would be the elder-statesmen of the group.

He’ll start that journey on Saturday and look to show fans that he’s healthy and ready to be the type of pitcher this franchise is going to need going forward. Just as long as he can avoid fighting with luggage going forward, there’s still plenty of reason to believe in him.