After his breakout 2016 season, Aaron Sanchez began 2017 facing some high expectations.
But as we now know after he was shut down on Sunday, Sanchez’s 2017 season will be remembered for frustrating right middle finger issues that kept him off the field for all but eight games.
Between four stints on the DL and rehab starts with multiple minor-league teams, it was a long summer for Sanchez. Here is a timeline of his many attempts to get back into the lineup this season.
April 15: Blue Jays place Sanchez on 10-day disabled list
Who knew the havoc that this initial injury would bring?
One day after making his second start of the season, the Blue Jays placed Sanchez on the disabled list with a blister on his right middle finger. Three days after that, he was in Kansas City for a procedure that removed part of his fingernail.
But things still didn’t look that dire, and by the end of the month he would be ready to make another start.
April 30: Blue Jays activate Sanchez from DL
May 1: Blue Jays place Sanchez on 10-day DL with a split nail
With that procedure behind him and some bullpen sessions completed, the Blue Jays activated Sanchez on April 30. But blood appeared on his pitching hand when he returned to action, and he only lasted one inning.
“There was stinging underneath the nail,” he said. “It was like someone grabbing your nail and ripping it out. That doesn’t feel good.”
The next day he’d be back on the DL.
May 14: Blue Jays activate Sanchez from DL
Another two weeks off and Sanchez again returned to the Blue Jays’ rotation, this time for a start against the Seattle Mariners.
By all accounts, it was a success. Sanchez went five innings, allowing only one earned run and striking out four.
“I thought (Sanchez) was fine, especially considering the little pitching he’s done in game-type situations,” said manager John Gibbons. “He felt good.”
But as we all know, his troubles were far from over.
May 20: Blue Jays place Sanchez on 10-day DL with a blister on his right middle finger
Five days later, Sanchez took his turn in the rotation against the Orioles. He’d go six innings and allow three runs, but he still didn’t feel quite right.
This time, Sanchez and the team were much more careful. For more than a month, he took things slow, throwing a towel instead of a baseball to avoid further damage.
On June 7, Sanchez told Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi that things were “tremendous” and that he was seeing “huge progress.”
June 27: Blue Jays send Sanchez to single-A Dunedin for a rehab assignment
July 1: Blue Jays send Sanchez to triple-A Buffalo for a rehab assignment
By now, Sanchez was ready to pitch in games again. The Blue Jays had Sanchez make two minor-league rehab starts, and they both went well.
After pitching at triple-A, Sanchez told the assembled media that there were “no issues” and that “it’s been good for a few weeks now.”
July 7: Blue Jays activate Sanchez from DL
Sanchez was called up on July 7 to make a start against the Houston Astros, and the results were ugly. The Astros scored three in the first and six more in the second. Sanchez only recorded five outs on 55 pitches.
Afterwards, Sanchez said his previous injury issues weren’t a concern. “I didn’t even think about my finger once,” he said afterwards.
July 22: Blue Jays place Sanchez on 10-day DL with a blister
Sanchez would make two more starts after the loss to the Astros, but on July 22, Sanchez was back on the DL and this time it would be for good.
He aggravated the blister in a start against the Red Sox on July 19 and was lifted from the game after only four innings.
“If I’m out there and I do throw in the bullpen and it does feel all right then we’re headed in the right direction, for sure,” Sanchez told Shi Davidi on Aug. 19
Ultimately those efforts didn’t allow Sanchez to return to the field, so he ends the season with a 4.25 ERA in eight starts. More than anything, though, his four stints on the disabled list define his 2017 season.