Aaron Sanchez was overanxious.
His first inning was an all-over-the-place adventure featuring three hits, two runs, a walk, a hit batter and 26 pitches.
His second inning started as an exercise in finding the strike zone, as he opened by throwing seven straight balls.
It was far from a clean outing Thursday night in Coca-Cola Field for the 23-year-old right-hander making his way back to Toronto from the disabled list.
But Sanchez seemed pretty pleased with his performance despite some location problems and a lack of first-pitch strikes.
“I don’t think I was that bad,” Sanchez said. “In the first, I hadn’t been pitching in an environment like this, one step away from the big leagues. I was kinda out there rushing a bit and trying to get guys out but today I felt after the first inning, I settled in nicely.
“I pitched in A-ball where it’s not the same, really it’s not. When you get here and you know you’re closer – I was just overexcited to be here just knowing I’m that much closer to where I want to be. But I had to take a step back and understand what I’m trying to get out of today and move forward.”
His main goal Thursday was achieved – pitch with no pain or soreness.
Sanchez, who shot up through the Toronto organization last year, had his best outing with the Blue Jays on June 5, giving up one run in eight innings against Houston. But he had lingering soreness in his right latissimus dorsi – the broad muscle in his back – and skipped his next start. An MRI confirmed a strain and he was placed on the disabled list.
He made two Class-A rehab starts – one for the GCL Blue Jays, where he gave up two runs on three hits in two innings, and one for Dunedin, where he gave up one run on three hits in 2∏ innings.
Thursday at Coca-Cola Field he took the loss after pitching 3∑ innings.
He didn’t throw a first-pitch strike at all in the second and third. In the 17 batters he faced he only threw six total first-pitch strikes. For the outing he only threw 32 of 63 pitches for strikes.
“Just throwing strike one, hitting your spot with strike one,” manager Gary Allenson said. “I think it’s only his third time pitching to live hitters so he’s still a little rusty there, but as a starter that’s where he’s got to get at – pounding the zone with all three of his pitches. Obviously he’s healthy but the command needs to improve.”
His velocity was spot on, touching 98 on his fastball while his curveball was clocking in around 80. Physically he feels great and Sanchez is eager to get back to the Blue Jays although he has not been told the plan and will likely make another rehab start with the Bisons.
“I’m ready. I’ve been ready,” Sanchez said. “Obviously the DL stint is not something you want to do. I took my time. I got healthy. I’m back and I’m ready to go.”