BALTIMORE — Aaron Sanchez has been among the best pitchers both on the Blue Jays and in the American League and he’s been on the doorstep of the World Series.
But this rebuild stuff that Sanchez and his team are currently scuffling through is new territory for the 26-year-old Californian.
“It’s definitely different from being on teams where you’re expected to show up and win every night and do your part and then being on a team where I don’t want to say it’s not expected, but it doesn’t matter if you do or don’t,” Sanchez said in an interview in the Camden Yards’ visitors dugout prior to Tuesday’s demoralizing 4-2 loss to the Orioles.
“It’s a little hard, you know, when you’re such a competitor.”
It hasn’t been easy for anybody around the Jays, who dragged their miserable record into Baltimore’s Inner Harbor for a three-game series versus the Orioles, one of only two teams in the big leagues with a worse record.
The Jays’ bats were once again dormant on Tuesday as they struck out 13 times and saw their record dip to 23-43, which puts them on a pace to win just 56 games. That would be the third lowest in franchise history and the worst since 1979.
And yes, it’s certainly a far cry from 2016 when Sanchez was the ace of the Jays staff with an ERA of 3.00, the best in the American League.
For the record (as bad as it is), Sanchez doesn’t believe the Jays will be a 100-loss team, the current funk notwithstanding. He certainly intends to bring stability and wins to the rotation and believes the team will show incremental gains as younger players get more comfortable.
“I still don’t think we will be,” Sanchez said. “Just the talent we have. Look at the names. Look at the track record of some of the players and they’re still coming. The future is bright.
“You can’t take back the first 65 games. It’s about starting now and grinding out innings, grinding out at-bats, making plays, going out there and competing.”
As a Jays first-round draft pick in 2010, Sanchez hasn’t lived through a rebuild so, yes, the feeling is foreign and not overly pleasant.
“You just have to put it into perspective and recognize and understand what you’re trying to get accomplished,” Sanchez said. “You work on your craft and you come to the field every day, try to be a good teammate and see how things shake out.
“The more experience the young guys get, the better off we’re going to be in the end and that’s what you’re seeing right now. They’re out there playing big-league baseball and they’re understanding what works for them and what doesn’t. We’ll be fine.”
As for his own game, Sanchez is finally seeing some positives. True, he was hung with the loss in his past two outings, but in each he went six innings and did so without his finger being an issue.
“I haven’t pitched in two years,” Sanchez said, referring to the finger/blister issues that dogged him for most of 2017 and 2018 and intermittently early this season. “For me to go out there and get the reps and feel that competitiveness going out there and competing, that’s all I need. I know all that other stuff will take care of itself.
“You’ve seen it when I’m healthy — there’s nobody better, and when I’m not, I’m an average pitcher like you see throughout the league. That’s all right. I’ll never get discouraged. I’ll keep fighting. I’m built to last.”
The latest Jays’ loss actually started with some promise for the Jays when the first batter of the game, Eric Sogard, led off with a home run, his sixth of the season.
What followed was an array of poor at-bats. The Jays have now scored two or fewer runs in seven of their past nine games, a truly horrid stretch of offence.
– A team that has trouble getting runs across the plate certainly can’t afford to allow what happened in the fourth inning. Sogard was tracking what should have been a routine foul ball to right and appeared to be called off by centre fielder Randal Grichuk. Instead, the ball fell behind Sogard for an RBI double and a 3-1 Baltimore lead. And yes, that run stood up as the game winner.
– Toronto starter Trent Thornton was for the most part able to limit the damage as he went five complete allowing seven hits and three earned runs.
– The Jays have now dropped seven in a row on the road. They are also 1-3 this season versus the pitiful Orioles, the AL East basement tenants who are now just two games behind the Jays.
Next up: Edwin Jackson night.
AROUND THE DIAMOND
Is there help on the starting pitching front? After a couple of solid performances at triple-A Buffalo, Jays manager Charlie Montoyo believes Sean Reid-Foley might not be far off for a return to the big-league rotation.
– Montoyo is employing some “load management” with rookie Vlad Guerrero Jr.. After a rest day on Sunday and no game on Monday, Guerrero was DH on Tuesday. Montoyo is cognizant of the crappy turf at the Rogers Centre and wants to get Guerrero time off his feet when it makes sense. “We want to keep him healthy,” the manager said.
– A glimmer of hope down in Dunedin where talented prospect Bo Bichette continues to work his way back from a cracked bone in his hand. Bichette was four-for-five as a DH for the single-A Blue Jays.