Pillar flashes power, but Sanchez greeted harshly

Fill-in outfielder connects on two-run shot as Blue Jays' rally falls short

Pillar flashes power, but Sanchez greeted harshly

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- After Pedro Alvarez got the Pirates off to a fast start with a home run off Blue Jays right-hander Aaron Sanchez, new shortstop Jung Ho Kang connected on his first homer in Pittsburgh's 8-7 win on Tuesday.

Alvarez's shot to left came with a pair of runners on in the first inning. Right fielder Gregory Polanco started the rally with a two-out single, and Starling Marte then reached base on a fielding error by Josh Donaldson.

Pittsburgh's production continued in the second inning as Jaff Decker cleared the bases with a two-run double to right-center field. Sanchez was chased from the game after the at-bat, as he came two outs shy of completing his scheduled two innings of work.

Sanchez snags sharp liner

Kang's first home run came with the Pirates holding a 5-0 lead in the third inning. Facing right-hander Marco Estrada, he cleared the fence in right-center field, and then flashed the trademark "Z" sign on the way back to the dugout.

Sanchez allowed five runs -- two earned -- on four hits and one walk over 1 1/3 innings in his spring debut. He is competing against Estrada and left-hander Daniel Norris for the fifth spot in the rotation, but it appears more likely Sanchez will fill a glaring hole at the back end of Toronto's bullpen.

Right-hander Casey Sadler got the start for Pittsburgh and tossed two scoreless innings. His lone blemish came in the top of the second inning when he walked Edwin Encarnacion, who almost hit a home run down the left-field line but had the ball go just foul.

Outfielder Kevin Pillar put the Blue Jays on the scoreboard in the third inning with a two-run homer to left. Pillar is the early favorite to win the starting job in left while Michael Saunders recovers from a left knee injury. Pillar is expected to stick as a fourth outfielder, but he will receive some competition from Ezequiel Carrera and Chris Dickerson.

The Blue Jays rallied in the late innings, highlighted by Josh Thole's two-run single in the eighth. Ryan Beckman induced a groundout from Devon Travis with the bases loaded to end the contest.

Up next for the Blue Jays: Right-hander Marcus Stroman will make his spring debut when the Blue Jays visit the Pirates in a 1:05 p.m. ET start at McKechnie Field on Wednesday afternoon. Fans can listen live on an exclusive MLB.com webcast. Todd Redmond, Rob Rasmussen, Liam Hendriks, Ryan Tepera, Andrew Albers, Scott Barnes and Bo Schultz also are scheduled to pitch in a rematch of the spring opener. 

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.