Posted on August 21, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
The Toronto Blue Jays made a rather surprising move on Sunday, optioning starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez to the minors. The move is designed to help limit the number of innings Sanchez throws this season. Instead of being optioned to triple-A, the Blue Jays have actually optioned him to their advanced-A affiliate in Dunedin, where he is not expected to pitch. The Blue Jays will be able to recall Sanchez in 10 days, when he is expected to rejoin Toronto’s rotation. Left-handed reliever Aaron Loup has been brought up to fill the empty roster spot.
“We’ve talked a lot about this over the year,” explains Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins said. “Not just over the last month, but as good as Aaron has become, we all along thought at some point we’ll have to manage his workload. That’s what this is about. He’ll come right back in the rotation.” Sanchez has already thrown 156.1 innings this season, surpassing his previous career high of 133.1 innings in 2014. He is 12-2 with a 2.99 ERA in 24 starts.
Sanchez, who may only end up having one of his starts skipped while in the minors, understands the situation. “At the end of the day, it comes down to winning ballgames, and if I’m just going to be sitting here knowing that they’re going to skip my start, why don’t we bring somebody up to help continue to win ballgames,” he said. “That’s the stand we took. Obviously it’s not ideal, but it’s something that was discussed and it just so happened to be after last night’s start.”
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The move comes one day after Sanchez lasted just four innings against the Cleveland Indians. However, the Blue Jays say his subpar start on Saturday had nothing to do with Sanchez being optioned on Sunday. Manager John Gibbons hinted earlier in the week that Sanchez would soon be skipped in the rotation. The move will not disrupt the rest of Toronto’s rotation, as the Blue Jays have been utilizing a six-man rotation since acquiring Francisco Liriarno at the trade deadline. The switch to a six-man rotation was made in part to limit the numbers of innings Sanchez throws this year.
The Blue Jays have considered a number of other options for handling Sanchez, including moving him to the bullpen. However, the Blue Jays have decided not to go down that route and appear committed to keeping Sanchez in the starting rotation once he returns from his procedural time in the minors. He’s expected to spend the next 10 days in Dunedin working out and attempting to stay sharp. The Blue Jays plan to call him back to start August 31 against the Baltimore Orioles.
We’ve known all along that the Blue Jays would have to do something about the number of innings Sanchez has thrown this season, and it appears they’ve finally chosen their course of action. It remains to be seen whether or not Sanchez may need to be skipped again later in the season. That decision may hinge on Toronto’s place in the standings.
The Blue Jays currently hold a half game lead over the Boston Red Sox atop the AL East, although they would have the wild card to fall back on if they fall out of first place. The only thing they may know for sure is that Sanchez has been a big part of Toronto’s success this season, and he may need to be a big part of any success they have the remainder of the season or in the playoffs.