At this point in the season, it’s not really a question of if Aaron Sanchez is going to be shut down … it’s when.
Aaron Sanchez will make his return to the Blue Jays starting rotation tonight after his 10-day “sabbatical” in the minor leagues, which was just a shrewd way of skipping a start while also opening up a roster spot.
Of all the Blue Jays’ starting pitchers, Sanchez has arguably given the Jays the best chance to win. And like many, I believe Aaron Sanchez needs to remain in the Blue Jays starting rotation as long as humanly possible this season … but not at the risk of completely shredding his arm.
This entire six-man starting rotation was constructed to keep Sanchez in the rotation longer than initially thought. Perhaps that was the plan all along with Aaron Sanchez, but once the Blue Jays acquired Francisco Liriano, it allowed the Blue Jays to shift to this strategy.
Another Aaron Sanchez start is another great chance for the Blue Jays to win a ballgame. But exactly how many of these starts does Aaron Sanchez have left in him this season? Or maybe the better question; how for and how long will the team let Sanchez go?
Sanchez is now sitting at 156.1 innings, which is remarkable to me, considering his previous career high is around 100 innings. With three off days and 30 games left to play down the stretch, it gives Aaron Sanchez the opportunity to take the hill anywhere from five to seven more times the remainder of the schedule.
Aaron Sanchez is averaging 6.5 innings per start, so extrapolate that over six or seven more turns in the rotation (including today against the Baltimore Orioles), and he’d reach somewhere around 192-200 innings on the regular season.
But that’s assuming Sanchez isn’t skipped a start, which he more than likely will be. Then the question becomes whether Aaron Sanchez will be saved for those marquee match-ups against the Red Sox, Orioles and Yankees in the coming weeks.
I’m going to assume that if the Jays are going to skip Sanchez one more time, it will be during that West Coast swing against the Angels and Mariners. After that, every other series is fair game and all hands should be on deck.
Back in early August, when asked about letting Aaron Sanchez ride out the season, Mark Shapiro said this:
“You can’t run Sanchez to 230 innings. That can’t happen and that won’t happen.”
While that may be true, pushing Aaron Sanchez past the 200 inning mark may not actually be that far out of the realm. Especially if the Jays opt not to skip Sanchez down the stretch, he’ll easily clear 200 innings on the season.
At this point, Aaron Sanchez is already thrown off his routine anyway, so whether he’s pitching on five, six, seven or eight days rest, it really shouldn’t matter very much for Sanchez. Because having him go to the mound on extended rest is better than not seeing Sanchez pitch at all down the stretch.
Is it crazy to try to plot these things when the postseason is more than four weeks away? Surely the Blue Jays have already played out all these scenarios and have a rough estimate of when Sanchez will cease throwing this year.
In that case, it allows the Blue Jays to line Aaron Sanchez up for at least one potential playoff start … if not more. Priming Sanchez for a potential Wild Card game or Game 1 of the ALDS would be ideal.
And I really think that’s the end game here for the Blue Jays. They know they won’t be able to ride Aaron Sanchez all the way to the World Series. They have come to grips with the fact that moving him to the bullpen could do more harm than good. So at the very least, taking one (maybe even two) playoff starts from Sanchez would be ideal.
Not to sound all presumptuous like the Blue Jays are definitely going to make it to the postseason, but the Blue Jays definitely have to factor in postseason innings. Otherwise, they’ll have a Stephen Strasburg situation on their hands.
This wasn’t exactly the most conventional way to go about it – and they may not have always had a concrete plan with Aaron Sanchez – but I like that the Blue Jays’ front office realized this was a very fluid situation with Sanchez and things changed on an almost-weekly basis.
Five is probably the magic number of starts we’ll see from Aaron Sanchez the rest of the regular season, which actually sounds like a lot. So maybe this six-man rotation was much ado about nothing, but it allowed Sanchez to get some rest and potentially attack his AL East rivals in the coming weeks.