Secondary stuff key to Sanchez's rotation case

Right-hander focuses on curveball, changeup in strong 4 2/3-inning start vs. Astros

Secondary stuff key to Sanchez's rotation case

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Aaron Sanchez possesses an overpowering fastball, but his case for the rotation will ultimately come down to the effectiveness of his secondary pitches.

Sanchez, who pitched 4 2/3 strong innings in Toronto's 7-2 win over Houston on Friday, has proven that he can be an elite late-inning reliever, but he has been very vocal about a desire to be much more than that. He wants to start, and he knows that the only way that can happen is to master his changeup and curveball combination.

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The command and movement of his secondary pitches were the main point of emphasis during Sanchez's last start, and while it wasn't perfect, there were some steps in the right direction. He has looked better each time out, and that's all anyone can ask for in this type of competition.

"I might have been a little inconsistent with command overall," Sanchez admitted after allowing one run vs. the Astros. "I know I hit on my curveball; for me, it might have been a little too sharp, a little too much depth. I was having some trouble throwing it for a strike, but I'll leave here today knowing my 0-2 curveball got tremendously better.

"Overall, I think it was good. I'll take that. My changeup was less than 90 mph, which is something we were kind of going into the day to kill some ball speed with my changeup. ... I threw a couple of good cutters. I know that has been a work in progress for me, but overall, that was a good day for me."

Sanchez is in the mix for the fifth starter job, but it hasn't been easy. He faces stiff competition from right-hander Gavin Floyd, Drew Hutchison and, to a lesser extent, Jesse Chavez, and at this point it's anyone's guess what direction the Blue Jays ultimately will decide to go.

Toronto manager John Gibbons continues to insist that the club has yet to make a final determination, but there are several scenarios that could play out. Sanchez could end up in the rotation with Floyd sent to the bullpen, or the opposite could happen. Another scenario could see the Blue Jays option Sanchez to Triple-A Buffalo, which would give him more time to develop the secondary pitches he has spent so much time trying to master this spring.

No matter what happens, Sanchez insists that there will not be any hard feelings in the clubhouse.

"In this clubhouse, there is no adversity, no tension, there is nothing in here," said Sanchez, who struck out five and walked two Friday. "I see Jesse as a really good friend, I see Gavin as a mentor; he has been around the league for a long time. This is a unit in here. We understand if Gavin does get the job, so be it, I'll go down and do what I need to do to make this team better."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.