Sanchez caps strong spring with five scoreless

Sanchez caps strong spring with five scoreless

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Aaron Sanchez made his final tuneup before the start of the regular season by tossing five scoreless innings in a Minor League game on Thursday afternoon at the Bobby Mattick Complex.

Sanchez struck out four and allowed two singles without walking a batter. Most of his outs came on the ground as he displayed strong control and cruised through the Yankees' Minor League hitters with relative ease.

The 23-year-old was named to Toronto's starting rotation earlier this week, and he's expected to pitch the third game of the season, which would take place against the Rays on Tuesday at Tropicana Field. The Blue Jays have yet to officially announce the order of their starters.

"Early on, I felt like I was still trying to find a few things, but by the second inning, I felt like I was in a rhythm and got really good work in," Sanchez said. "It was more about making sure my stuff is where it needs to be. The first inning and a half, I was mostly looking for my changeup, but by the third and fourth, I think I threw six out of seven for strikes."

Sanchez officially finished his Grapefruit League season with a 1.35 ERA over 20 innings. He struck out 19 batters and issued just three walks, which is a big difference from a year ago, when he struck out 11 and walked 10.

The control problems last March also carried into the regular season. Sanchez began the year by issuing 32 walks over his first 45 1/3 innings, and while the effectiveness of his secondary pitches has been better this spring, it's the overall command of his arsenal that might be the most impressive aspect of his camp.

"Things weren't right last year," Sanchez said. "Nothing seemed to click. But this year, all of the work that I put in, it feels like I'm out there effortlessly with my mechanics and I feel like that was a big part of my issues last year. I wasn't in the right spot to execute the pitches, and this year it's much more stable to be in the right positions without even thinking about it."

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.