Gibbons: Sanchez to bullpen 'going to happen'

Gibbons: Sanchez to bullpen 'going to happen'

PHILADELPHIA -- Aaron Sanchez is transitioning to the bullpen at some point later this summer. The question isn't if, but when, Toronto makes the move.

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons reiterated his club's stance during a scrum with reporters on Wednesday afternoon. In his most forceful words yet, Gibbons completely closed the door on the possibility of Sanchez remaining in the rotation for the duration of the year.

Sanchez won a starting job in Spring Training and, at the time, Toronto announced he would be pitching under an undisclosed innings limit. The 23-year-old has since become one of the club's most valuable starters but his effectiveness has not changed what the Blue Jays have planned to do all along.

"It's going to happen, it's going to happen," Gibbons said multiple times when asked about moving Sanchez to the bullpen.

The exact timing of the move remains uncertain. Toronto will continue to take advantage of its scheduled off-days to provide Sanchez with extra rest and, by the sounds of it, he won't be moving to the bullpen until at least after the All-Star break.

Sanchez's career high for innings came back in 2014, when he threw 130 1/3 between the Minors and Majors. That's the number the club is working from but it also raises questions about why the club has Sanchez under a strict limit but is not taking the same approach wiith fellow right-hander Marcus Stroman.

Stroman's career high in innings also came back in 2014, when he tossed 166 1/3 innings, but he missed almost all of last year because of a knee injury. When pressed for specifics about why Stroman was being treated differently, Gibbons said that the club "feels more comfortable" with his workload. When asked why, Gibbons said, "I can't really answer that, to be honest with you."

"I think it's pretty universal," Gibbons said of the approach with young pitchers. "Organizations watch their guys in the Minor Leagues. Guys get hurt more now than they've ever got hurt, seems like it anyways.

"So they guard it and protect it pretty good, and then they get to the big leagues where everything counts and sometimes things are viewed differently. Some times you have to put plans in place for the kid's sake and the organization's sake. I don't know, if you bang two of them, then you don't have too much of a rotation."

Gibbons also confirmed that right-hander Drew Hutchison would be the logical candidate to replace Sanchez when the time comes to make a move. Hutchison was Toronto's Opening Day starter last season but struggled for most of the year and has spent most of 2016 in Triple-A Buffalo.

Hutchison is 3-3 with a 3.12 ERA in 12 starts for the Bisons this season. He made a spot start for Toronto earlier this year when the club wanted to buy an extra day of rest for each of its starters, and that plan likely will be repeated again in the coming weeks.

"We've been talking a bit lately about what that actual number is," Gibbons said of Sanchez. "We haven't really decided on anything yet. Every opportunity we try to give him an extra day, and we have two days off next week, then of course you have the All-Star break. He's burning it up pretty quick though, because he throws seven or eight innings every time he goes out there."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. 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.