The right-hander who’s enjoying a breakout season will in fact transition to a relief role this year, says manager John Gibbons.
“For safety reasons, health reasons, he’s going to end up down there,” Gibbons told ESPN’s Buster Olney Tuesday on the Baseball Tonight podcast.
Talk of an innings limit has shadowed Sanchez since the Blue Jays decided to begin the season with the 23-year-old on the starting staff instead of the bullpen, where he excelled in the latter months of the 2015 campaign.
Sanchez has never thrown more than 133 innings during a season in his professional career, and currently sits at 85.1 in 2016.
“We’ve been talking about it, no doubt,” said Gibbons. “We’re still in discussion right now what that actual number is before we bump him to the ’pen, but it’s gonna happen.”
Sanchez is 6-1 with a 3.38 ERA in 13 starts this year. His ground ball-to-flyball ratio of 1.43 ranks fifth in MLB and his success has translated into Sanchez pitching deep into games. The right-hander has tossed at least six innings in all but two of his starts.
“The thing is about ol’ Sanchie – every time he goes out there, he’s going six, seven, eight innings, so he’s burning up some innings pretty quick,” said the manager.
Gibbons lauded the improvement he’s noticed in Sanchez’s curveball and changeup, noting that the progression of those pitches would have possibly been hampered if the young right-hander began the season in the bullpen.
Regardless, he acknowledges that a day of reckoning is nearing as a result of the Blue Jays’ decision in spring training.
“If we were going to use him in the rotation, there was going to be a time this year that he’s got to go to the bullpen.”