The problems began almost immediately as Sanchez surrendered a leadoff home run to Alejandro De Aza on the second pitch of the game. Two batters later, Chris Davis added a solo shot to left field.
"Obviously, this isn't the way I wanted to start the season," Sanchez said. "Before the game down in the 'pen, I was throwing a million [mph] down there. I think it kind of worked against me. I got out there, tried to slow things down a little too much. Started aiming it a little bit, and it wasn't the night I wanted."
The three earned runs fall one shy of the amount Sanchez surrendered during the second half of last season. He allowed four earned runs after being called up at the end of July, but that was out of the bullpen, and his task this year will be much more difficult.
Sanchez's biggest challenge as a starter will be going through a lineup multiple times in the same game. He'll need good command on his sinker, but also reliable secondary pitches that can be used to hitters from both sides of the plate. There were several impressive curveballs against the Orioles, which was an encouraging sign, but the slider wasn't used.
Toronto added the slider to Sanchez's repertoire during Spring Training with the thinking that it would be easier to locate more consistently than the curveball. It's also something he would be able to run in on lefties, which was a particular area of weakness Saturday night. Baltimore's left-handed hitters went 6-for-7 with two home runs and a walk in eight plate appearances against Sanchez.
"The slider is still a work in progress," Sanchez said. "It's something I started halfway through spring, so it's not where I want it to be. You get out there in a big league game, and I'm not trying to throw something I'm not comfortable with. If I had a chance to put someone away with it, then we would, but I didn't even give myself a chance to do that, so that's why there weren't any thrown."
The important thing to keep in mind is that despite Sanchez's success last season, this was the first start of his big league career. There will be some bumps along the way, but it's easy to see why the Blue Jays have been so high on him for the past several years.
"Sanchy had trouble with the lefties tonight, and I thought his ball, from the looks of it, was running right back over the heart of the plate," Gibbons said. "They're going to hit anybody that does that. They have a good hitting club. But I thought he was a little revved up for his first start, no doubt. And rightfully so; that's not unusual."