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Jays’ Sanchez busting with optimism over offseason workouts

How is offseason conditioning going for Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Sanchez?

Just ask fellow Jays pitcher and workout partner Marcus Stroman, who grabbed a microphone at the Buffalo Bisons Hot Stove Luncheon Wednesday to relate a story from that morning. Sanchez went to fix his belt and the button popped off his pants.

This is not a bad thing.

Sanchez and Stroman have been working to bulk up their frames with muscle during workouts that began in November. The two-a-days at Duke University have yielded results.

“He’s put on a ton of great weight,” Stroman said. “He’s a lot stronger and more flexible than he was and I’m just excited for you all to see what he can do.”

Endurance is the goal. Their mantra is “nine in five” to signify pitching nine innings every five days.

“To be durable, I didn’t think I could do it at 190,” pounds,” Sanchez said. “So for me, my personal goal was to gain weight. It didn’t really matter how much it was. I think it was just overall weight was going to help me regardless.”

Sanchez began 2015 in the Blue Jays rotation, but struggled. He suffered a strained back muscle that landed him on the disabled list in June. He returned as a reliever in July and was stellar in that role. His work in relief was key for the Blue Jays’ run to the American League Championship Series. In 30 relief outings he had a 2.39 ERA and picked up the win in the series clincher with Texas in the Divisional Series.

His motivation this offseason has been a combination of wanting to return to the rotation along with the feeling of unfinished business after the Jays lost to Kansas City in Game Six of the ALCS.

“For me going into the offseason it was about incorporating my changeup,” Sanchez said. “I know I can spin the ball. Obviously every pitcher is focusing on fastball command and that’s something I’ll continue to work on probably my whole career. But I think the changeup is one of the best pitches in the game and I had a good one in 2012.

“Being in the big leagues, trying to get quick outs out of the pen, I used predominately fastball, occasionally curveball. This year in the offseason my emphasis was on the changeup and trying to get that pitch to where it needs to be to incorporate it this year.”

The teammates spent the last seven weeks living and lifting weights together. For Stroman, it’s about the complete return from a knee injury.

“We’ve done everything we can,” Stroman said. “Obviously we’re still working. We still have 30 days until spring training but we’ve done everything in our power to be able to go out there and throw 200-plus innings.”

email: amoritz@buffnews.com