BALTIMORE – The pattern suggests Aaron Sanchez will be a high-walk pitcher over the course of his career but as the 21-year-old takes his next and perhaps final minor league step, the man who hopes to manage Sanchez in the big leagues isn't concerned.
"He's got that big-time arm and his big pitch is his sinking fastball," said Gibbons. "There's a lot of life to that. That's a tough pitch to command and keep in the zone a lot. He may be one of those guys his whole career who walks guys. That doesn't mean he can't pitch at this level and be very good because those ground balls, you can erase some of those walks and those hits with one pitch."
Sanchez joins the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons after making 14 starts for Double-A New Hampshire. He posted a 3.82 ERA and a 1.394 WHIP but talk centered on Sanchez's walk rate, which sat five-and-a-half per nine innings.
"He's still a baby. He's still learning. He hasn't logged a lot of innings in the minor leagues yet," said Gibbons. "He may be one of those guys who walks some guys. I don't think that's necessarily, I mean you'd rather not but I don't think that's a bad thing. I don't think that's a killer. Let's put it that way."
This is nothing new. At any of Sanchez's seven stops in the Blue Jays' chain so far, he's never had a better walk rate than 3.8 per nine innings. That came in 2011 with Bluefield of the Single-A Appalachian League. He was 18 years old at the time.
Sanchez threw 109 2/3 innings last season, New Hampshire and the Arizona Fall League combined, and has already tossed 66 innings this season. A 20 per cent year-over-year increase would cap Sanchez at about 130 innings. A 30 per cent spike would see Sanchez stop at a little more than 140 innings.
The Blue Jays have a plan. Whatever it is, Gibbons is being mum.
"That's none of your business," he said, before adding, "He's still learning. He's still developing. He's in the minor leagues for a reason. He's making his start every five days. He's working through his career. When that career begins, who knows? Every pitcher in baseball in the minor leagues, I mean teams are conscious of the workload because there are so many injuries."
MASTROIANNI BACK WHERE IT BEGAN
Darin Mastroianni met the Blue Jays in Baltimore, his contract selected to serve as the fourth outfielder when Bobby Korecky was optioned to Triple-A Buffalo.
A 16th round pick of Toronto in the 2007 amateur draft, Mastroianni made his major league debut with the Blue Jays – his only game with Toronto – on August 24, 2011.
He moved on to Minnesota, appearing in 114 games for the Twins in two-plus seasons.
"It's really nice to be back with Toronto," said Mastroianni. "Obviously, whenever you get a chance to come back to a team that gave you your start and I made my big league debut with them, it's always exciting to come back and play with an organization like that."
It's been a trying year and a half for Mastroianni since he fouled a Joe Kelly pitch off his left shin in a spring training game in 2013. He suffered an avulsion fracture but tried to play through it. He was shut down in April and underwent surgery in May. Even though he returned late in the season the procedure didn't take and Mastroianni underwent a second surgery last November.
He cleared waivers in December but appeared in seven April games with the Twins before being designated for assignment. That's when the Blue Jays claimed him off waivers.
"I didn't really know what was going to happen," said Mastroianni. "Obviously you hope you get a chance; that someone would want you and it was exciting to know that the Blue Jays felt that they wanted me to come over here and I was even more excited to get that call (Wednesday) that I was going to join them here."
Mastroianni is a base stealer. He swiped 21 bases in 24 attempts for the Twins in 2012. His performance in Buffalo since his acquisition has allayed any fears his foot surgeries have affected his speed. Mastroianni has 14 stolen bases in 16 tries.
The Blue Jays aren't scheduled to face any starting left-handed pitching on the road trip or when the club returns home to face the Yankees on June 23 and so a strict bench role appears to be in Mastroianni's future. Regardless, he's excited.
"This is kind of new territory for me," said Mastroianni. "I've never been on a team that's in first place. It's kind of new. It's exciting for me. I always felt that my role on a team was to help teams win late in the game, whether it's pinch-run, defence, whatever and it's exciting if that is the role to be on a team when you can actually impact and really help a team win baseball games."
GIBBONS PRAISES BAUTISTA
Whether the club is running hot or cold and regardless of whether Jose Bautista is streaking or slumping at the plate, manager John Gibbons said his star player sets the right example.
"When your top dog or one of your top guys, their mindset is they show up everyday, man, they lay it out there, that's important because it's not always the case," said Gibbons. "Not just in this sport, any sport, if your top guy does things the right way, everybody falls behind that. When they do it the wrong way, everybody falls that way too and that can work against you."
Bautista, as he has for most of the season, continues to lead baseball in on-base percentage (.434 entering Thursday's action).
His seven outfield assists are second only to Oakland's Yoenis Cespedes.
"He does everything right," said Gibbons. "He prepares himself. He's into it. He doesn't take an inning off."
RASMUS BEGINS REHAB ASSIGNMENT
Colby Rasmus served as the designated hitter in Triple-A Buffalo's 11-0 win at Toledo on Thursday night.
In four plate appearances, he went 1-for-3 with a single, a walk and a strikeout.
The plan is for Rasmus to play five innings in centerfield on Friday and play another full game at designated hitter on Saturday.
At that point Rasmus' right hamstring will be evaluated, possibly paving the way for his return to the Blue Jays early next week.