CLEVELAND -- The Blue Jays have found a creative way to limit Aaron Sanchez's workload this season by deciding to option the powerful right-hander to Class A Advanced Dunedin on Sunday.
The move is designed to protect Sanchez, who has tossed a career-high 156 1/3 innings this season. Toronto's goal is to have Sanchez finish the year in the starting rotation, and the hope is that a little breather now will help that become a reality.
Sanchez is expected to remain in the Minor Leagues until his next tentatively scheduled outing on Aug. 31 in Baltimore. In the meantime, Toronto added left-hander Aaron Loup to take his spot on the 25-man active roster.
"At the end of the day, it comes down to winning ballgames, and if I'm just going to be sitting here knowing that they're going to skip my start, why don't we bring somebody up to help continue to win ballgames," said Sanchez, who is 12-2 with a 2.99 ERA this season.
"That's the stand we took. Obviously it's not ideal, but it's something that was discussed and it just so happened to be after last night's start. There's no hard feelings, hopefully we continue winning. This is an important part of our season, and if adding someone to the roster gives us the best chance to win that night, then so be it."
The decision to option Sanchez did not have anything to do with his performance on Saturday night. Sanchez cruised through his first three innings but then allowed five runs (four earned) in what turned out to be a 6-5 Blue Jays victory, but this move had been planned for quite some time.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons hinted earlier this week that Sanchez would have at least one of his outings skipped following Saturday night's start. He will now head to Dunedin and work out at the club's Minor League complex to stay sharp, but the 24-year-old is not expected to get into a game for the affiliate.
"I'm going to continue doing everything that I would do on a normal five days, bullpens included," Sanchez said. "Games, we haven't discussed. ... I'm going to continue what I've done here. I still have to get ready, it's not like my season is over, so it's normal work when I go down there, nothing changes for me."
Sanchez is in the midst of a breakout season that has become one of the biggest developments in the American League. He likely would have been a candidate for the Cy Young Award if he wasn't working under a strict innings limit, but the first priority for the Blue Jays is making sure Sanchez is available late in September and for a possible run into the postseason.
The native of California has tossed 156 1/3 innings this season, which surpassed his previous career high of 133 1/3 set during 2014. Late last month, the plan was to move Sanchez to the bullpen, but that changed following a series of meetings that included the young starter, the front office and the coaching staff.
The club now is committed to keeping Sanchez in his current role, and this was one way to make that happen.
"There were so many situations discussed when we talked in Houston a few weeks ago, and one was having this opportunity," Sanchez said. "Obviously with the recent games and the recent injuries that have come along on our team, it gave us a chance to add a player to our roster in a time of need, and they kind of knew going this time through that I was going to miss my start, so it only made sense that I made this move."
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.