Aaron Sanchez sets bar high in big-league debut
The name that’s been on everyone’s lips — whether it’s the media, fans or teams hoping to sway Toronto in trade talks — stood on the major league mound for the first time, in front of a crowd of 35,696 to add some relief Wednesday night at the Rogers Centre. Aaron Sanchez, a first-round draft pick in 2010 who was ranked as the No. 19 prospect overall by MLB.com, didn’t let his first big-league lineup of veterans Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Mike Napoli faze him in the seventh inning. He looked calm and collected, took control, retired them in order, and did so again with the next three in the Red Sox line-up in the eighth, earning him a bow in the dugout from Munenori Kawasaki. He lived up to the hype and woke up the next morning with headlines like “Sanchez for Mayor” from The Globe and Mail. Signs began to point in the direction of a promotion after the All-Star break on July 18 when the bullpen adjusted its structure going into the second half of the season. Not only did the club send Sanchez into the pen in Buffalo, but they also designated Sergio Santos for assignment (where he was subsequently picked up by the Buffalo Bisons) and acquired Brad Mills (off of wavers from Oakland), who made teammates and fans sit through a painful relief effort that contributed to a 14-1 loss against Boston on Monday. After this beat down, Sanchez’s trial run in the pen was relocated to the one under the dome. Although the 22-year-old’s arrival up north was much anticipated, critics are quick to point out this potential in-house solution to Toronto’s pitching woes as jumping the expectation gun. With a 3.95ERA, 57 walks in 100 innings and only three wins in 22 double- and triple-A starts this year, Sanchez has to brush some dirt off his shoulders to prove his doubters wrong. At this point, why shouldn’t the Blue Jays keep testing the futures of the franchise (as they successfully did in the case of Sanchez’s other half Marcus Stroman) with early season stars like Drew Hutchison and Mark Buehrle, who has not won a game since June 1, struggling and the bullpen costing the contending club one too many games? After the show he put on in his first two innings, he might just be one of those kids who performs better in the majors than the minors. Using him intelligently, by monitoring his innings and pitch count and letting him get comfortable, is the only way to find out how big-league hitters react to his seemingly effortless fastball (98-99 mph) and solid breaking ball, which ultimately will determine if his role is that of a trade chip in a package deal or possible starter who will make waves for the Blue Jays in 2015.