Sanchez named to AL All-Star squad

Sanchez named to AL All-Star squad

TORONTO -- Aaron Sanchez did not even know whether he'd be in the Blue Jays' starting rotation when he reported to Spring Training in February. Now, he's an All Star.

Sanchez was officially named to the American League team on Saturday afternoon as the injury replacement for Boston's Craig Kimbrel. The Red Sox's closer was scratched from the game after it was revealed he will require surgery on his left knee.

The 24-year-old Sanchez was originally overlooked when the AL team was announced earlier this week, and then again when Corey Kluber was announced as the injury replacement for Marco Estrada. As it turned out, the third time was the charm.

"That's a huge accomplishment," Sanchez said, following Toronto's 3-2 loss to the Tigers on Saturday at Rogers Centre. "There are so many other guys deserving of this award, and to be mentioned with those people is a huge honor for me.

"To be honest with you, I kind of gave up after the first couple of times. Obviously, Marco got hurt and I thought I had a chance. Then, after that, I didn't really want to think about it. But definitely a pleasant surprise for myself. Going into every year, I think that's one of the things you set goals for -- and to be in a category with those guys is unbelievable."

It might have taken a little bit longer than anticipated for Sanchez to get his due -- but he deserves all of the attention, after becoming one of the top starters in baseball this season. He finished Saturday's outing vs. the Tigers ranked third in the AL with 118 1/3 innings, fourth with a 2.97 ERA, 10th with a 1.19 WHIP and 10th with 103 strikeouts.

The third-year hurler has allowed two runs or fewer in 13 of his 18 starts this season. Sanchez's .900 win percentage (9-1) is the third-highest mark in the Majors. It's also highest in Toronto franchise history prior to the All-Star break (minimum 15 starts).

All of this from a guy who had to scratch and claw his way into the rotation with a flawless Spring Training. Prior to that, there was plenty of talk that he would be better suited for the bullpen. But that has since proven to be a myth. Sanchez's sinker, curveball and changeup combination are more than simply enough to survive as a starter -- he has the ability to dominate.

"We're all happy and excited for him," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He had a tremendous first half. I think he is just scratching the surface, I really do. It will be a nice honor for him to represent our team. ... Well deserved."

The trip to San Diego will be a homecoming of sorts for the California native. Sanchez grew up in nearby Barstow, which is approximately a three-hour drive from the Padres' ballpark. Sanchez had the opportunity to play a high school all-star game at Petco Park back in 2010, and this will be his first time back since then.

From a high school all-star to Major League All-Star in six years. Not bad for a guy who has been developing and maturing at a rapid pace this year. He's no longer a project, he is the real deal.

"The last time I was there, I was in high school in an all-star game," Sanchez said. "To look back, six years later, for it to be my first big league [All-Star Game] it's kind of surreal.

"It's so last minute -- everything has kind of happened so fast these last few minutes. But I'm just going to try [to] go out there and soak it in. You're out there with the best of the best. It always seems to be fun on TV, so hopefully it is that much when I'm actually there."

On Tuesday, watch the 2016 All-Star Game presented by MasterCard live on FOX at 7:30 p.m. ET, and during the game visit MLB.com to submit your choice for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet via the 2016 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote. The 87th All-Star Game, in San Diego, will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 160 countries via MLB International's independant feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB.com, MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.

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.