There was only goal for Aaron Sanchez Sunday afternoon -- throw 75 pitches and come out healthy.
Mission accomplished for the righty who started for the Buffalo Bisons at Coca-Cola Field as his Major League Rehabilitation assignment continued.
Sanchez threw 76 pitches Sunday for the Herd through 4 1/3 innings. He gave up four runs on five hits with three walks and four strike outs, taking the loss as Syracuse took a 5-2 win.
No disrespect to Buffalo, but the result didn't really matter for Sanchez. This was rehab and he had things to work on.
"Just get to my pitch count, really. Making sure I was doing the things that I needed to do before I got," back to Toronto, Sanchez said. "There are some counts and some things I probably wouldn't have done at the next level, but I had to make sure I threw my pitches in there. For me, to start the game my fastball command was kind of iffy but for the most part I felt good out there."
Sanchez has been dealing with issues from blisters on the middle finger of his right hand. Earlier this year he had part of his fingernail surgically removed. He came back quickly, perhaps too quickly, and another blister formed, then re-opened.
He last pitched for the Blue Jays on May 19, then went on the disabled list for the third time this season with the laceration and did not pitch in a game until June 27 when he made his first rehab start with Single-A Dunedin. In that game Sanchez threw 66 pitches, working more specifically with the curveball as that was the pitch which was giving his finger the most trouble. He gave up three runs on six hits in 3 2/3 innings.
On Sunday, Sanchez started the first and second innings issuing walks but then he pitched to contact and the Bisons defense turned double plays behind him. His third included a one-out walk but a strike out and pop foul to third base nicely ended the inning.
Sanchez gave up hits in the fourth, starting with a one-out double to Chris Heisey, himself on an MLB stint from the Washington Nationals. Then came an RBI double off the left field wall from Clint Robinson. Then Neftali Soto had an RBI single, also off the left field wall, and Alejandro De Aza had an RBI single to center.
"It's a work in progress, obviously but it was OK today," Sanchez said.
In his 76 pitch outing, Sanchez threw 40 strikes. The velocity on his fastball was a consistent 95 miles per hour while he mixed in nine curve balls and nine changeups.
"Everything is good. No issues, so that's a positive sign," Sanchez said about his finger. "It's been good for a few weeks now so that's encouraging to be able to throw 75 pitches with no issues. Move on from here."
Where he moves on from here is still up in the air, although the popular talk is that Sanchez will return to the Blue Jays rotation to face the Houston Astros on Friday in Toronto.
"I'm ready if that's where I'm going," Sanchez said. "I don't know where I'm going next. I don't know if I'm staying here. But if I have to face Houston I'm ready to go."
From the perspective of Bisons manager Bobby Meacham, Sanchez certainly looks ready to go back to the Major Leagues.
"Absolutely he's ready," Meacham said. "The ball is coming out good. I flashbacked as hitter and I'm glad I'm a managing now watching him pitch. He's ready to pitch up there."
As for the Bisons: The 4-0 hole did nothing to help in the third straight loss to Syracuse. The Bisons have lost 24 of the past 27 games.
Getting on the board: Trailing, 4-0, the Bisons got a pair of runs in the fifth. Roemon Fields lead off with single, then worked the hit-and-run to perfection, taking third on a single to right from Jonathan Diaz. Syracuse rightfielder Alejandro De Aza sailed his throw to third base wide, allowing Fields to score. Rowdy Tellez then had an RBI single to left to score another run and break his 0-for-13 slide.
Attendance: The announced paid attendance was 8,366 at Coca-Cola Field.
Up next: The series and homestand concludes Monday at 6:05 p.m. with righty Mike Bolsinger scheduled to start for the Herd against righty Erick Fedde.