Blue Jays’ Shapiro likes what he sees in Sanchez, Floyd

Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro updates Jeff Blair and Stephen Brunt as best he can, on the ongoing Edwin Encarnacion contract talks, but says "the best way to get a deal done, is to not talk about it publicly."

The race for the fifth starter remains one of the pressing issues in Toronto Blue Jays camp.

Pitching coach Pete Walker said earlier this week that there are four players still competing for the job, while conventional wisdom suggests the race will come down to Gavin Floyd and Aaron Sanchez.

In a guest appearance on The Jeff Blair Show Friday morning, Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro didn’t give any indication as to which way he is leaning, but said he has been impressed with the competition.

“Aaron (Sanchez) is a guy that I think has the capability to start,” Shapiro said on Sportsnet 590 The FAN. “He’s had a good spring down here in a starting role. We will balance that potential because remember he’s never pitched more than 130 innings, so we’ll balance that reality with what we need to pitch an entire season and be a championship-calibre team.”

Sanchez, 23, has stood out in his spring training work, striking out 10 batters in nine innings with only one walk and one home run allowed.

The Blue Jays fireballer began the 2015 season as a starting pitcher, registering a 3.55 ERA in 11 starts (66 innings), before he was moved back to a relief role following a lat injury. Sanchez excelled as a reliever, striking out 19 batters in 26.1 innings while posting a 2.39 ERA.

Shapiro also likes what he has seen from veteran right-hander Gavin Floyd, who signed a major-league free agent deal over the winter. Floyd, 33, has started 196 games over 12 MLB seasons but has not pitched more than 54.1 innings in any of his last three seasons.

“The fact remains that Gavin when he’s healthy — and he hasn’t been healthy a lot the last couple of years — has been productive,” Shapiro told co-hosts Jeff Blair and Stephen Brunt. “The biggest thing for him is health. The stuff is there. The weapons are there. And when he’s been healthy as a major-league pitcher, he’s been a good major-league starting pitcher.”

Floyd has started two spring training contests with Toronto, striking out nine batters with three earned runs, one walk, and one home run allowed in eight innings.

There is no clear timeline for the Blue Jays’ decision, which will have major implications for the rest of the pitching staff.