Sanchez adds another exclamation point to rotation bid

Hazel Mae and Jerry Howarth talk about Aaron Sanchez’s latest outing, and why it will be hard for the Blue Jays to keep him out of the starting rotation.

DUNEDIN, Fla. – Aaron Sanchez was magnificent again as the Toronto Blue Jays picked up their first spring win in three tries against the Houston Astros. Jose Bautista’s three-run homer in the third inning gave the big righty all he would need, but Troy Tulowitzki added a solo shot in the fifth for good measure.

Sanchez issued two walks over his 4.2-inning performance, which tripled his spring total, but he also struck out five and allowed just one run on two hits.

The 23-year-old has had a sensational spring, with 15 strikeouts against three walks over 13.2 innings. He’s allowed three runs on 11 hits and has absolutely dominated over his last two outings (8.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 9 K).

Sanchez has been very clear that his goal is to be a member of the Blue Jays’ starting rotation, but management has yet to announce how they plan to use him. Gavin Floyd, a 12-year veteran, has had a very good spring and appears to have put three years of arm troubles behind him. Jesse Chavez and Drew Hutchison are having solid camps of their own, as well.

Sanchez addressed the battle for the fifth spot after his outing, saying that “In this clubhouse, there is no adversity, no tension ... I see Jesse as a really good friend, I see Gavin as a mentor.”

There seems to be a worry in some parts of Blue Jays fandom that if Sanchez winds up in the bullpen, he’ll be upset and that could affect his performance. He put a pin in that by saying that “If Gavin does get the job, so be it, I'll go down (to the bullpen) and do what I need to do to make this team better."

And that’s the key for John Gibbons, Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro to decide. In which alignment are the Blue Jays the best possible team – with Sanchez in the rotation or in the bullpen?

Friday’s start was another big exclamation point in favour of Sanchez being one of the starting five when things get going for real in St. Petersburg on April 3.

RANDY’S FIRST LOOK

Veteran LOOGY Randy Choate got his first action as a Blue Jay on Friday, coming on with two out and nobody on in the sixth inning to face the left-handed hitting Luis Valbuena. Featuring a fastball in the low 80s and a slider in the low 70s, Choate got Valbuena to ground out to first base on a 3-2 pitch.

With Aaron Loup on the shelf with a strained flexor tendon, Choate is getting a look to see if he has anything left. Over his 15 years in the bigs, he has held left-handed hitters to a .195 batting average and .550 OPS. Those numbers have risen as he’s entered his 40s, but if he shows he can still be an effective weapon against southpaws, there’s a spot for him on the roster.

Choate is playing catch-up, after having just checked into camp a few days ago, but the Blue Jays are throwing him right into the fire – he’s scheduled to make his next appearance on Sunday.