AARON SANCHEZ RETURNS TO BUFFALO

Mar 7, 2016; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Aaron Sanchez (41) throws a pitch during the fourth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Florida Auto Exchange Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Blue Jays ace dishes up another Bisons loss in rehab stint

Aaron Sanchez came. He pitched. He lost. He addressed the media, sometimes patiently answering questions and at other times making caustic comments. And off he went, seemingly back to Toronto to take his place in the Blue Jays starting rotation.

Sanchez, a 2010 draft pick by the Toronto Blue Jays and seemingly headed to stardom, to greatness and to riches bestowed on only the best of the best, has had a few potholes on that path as he has slogged on through the Blue Jays minor league organization and on to the big leagues. He did play here in Buffalo, in 2014 and again in 2015, touted as a top prospect and a pitching phenom.

2017 has not been a good year for Sanchez thus far. Last season, he posted incredible numbers at Toronto in a breakout season. A 15-2 record. A 3.00 earned run average, tops in the American League. And this, at only 24 years of age.

Yet Sanchez signed a new contract at the league minimum, a salary of $535,000 this season. The team had the option, and the right, to renew his contract at that comparatively low threshold, but given Sanchez’ performance, and his potential to become a rock solid superstar, it seems unusually stingy. Add to the fact that Sanchez is represented by super agent Scott Boras, who has some of the biggest names in sports in his stable of clients, with boxcar salaries to match.

Back in Florida at the end of spring training, Blue Jays General Manager Ross Atkins had this to stay about his young pitcher as the new contract was concluded, “I think in the end his performance, his work, his process will end up taking care of the money.”

Nonetheless, there has to be a bit of a sour taste in the mouths of the people in the Sanchez camp, knowing that there could be a huge payday. Maybe. Down the road. In the meantime here is Sanchez, slogging through the season that has not started well for him. After just five starts, he was shut down and sent on the disabled list. The reason? A torn fingernail and blister in the middle finger of his pitching hand, of all things. And that has had him on the sidelines, healing, and now here he is, back in Buffalo, after pitching at single A Dunedin, Florida earlier this week.

Sanchez pitched last Sunday before a pretty good and robust crowd at Coca-Cola Field. His stats were four strikeouts while walking three and surrendering five base hits over 4 1/3 innings of work. He also got some pretty good defensive help, getting three double plays while on the mound.

But the 4th inning was just too much for Sanchez, surrendering four straight hits that inning that proved to be the winning runs for visiting Syracuse. “Everything’s good. No issues,” Sanchez said. “There are some counts and things I wouldn’t have done but I had to make sure I threw my pitches in there. It’s been good for a few weeks now, so that’s encouraging to throw 75 pitches with no issues. I will move on from here . . . If I have to face Houston, I’m ready to go.” The Blue Jays are playing at the Astros next weekend and that would be Sanchez’ scheduled next start.

If suffering Bisons fans were hoping for some sort of spark or energy having a major leaguer in the clue house, even for one day, don’t count on it. Perhaps it was too much to ask to have the likes of a Jim Thome, who helped will the Bisons to a 2004 Governors Cup, or Jose Reyes, who brought his vibrant can do attitude to the Bisons squad when they were here on rehab stints in recent seasons.

For Buffalo, it was their staggering 24th loss in 27b outings this past Sunday. A month ago, on Star Wars night and on that weekend, the team was right in the thick of things for a wild car playoff spot. In April, this team actually held on to first place in the league for a brief time. Yet now, the organization has fallen into a hole and into an abyss that is historic by franchise Modern Era standards.

Yet the most quotable quote in light of the current situation “I like the direction we’re going in,” via Manager Bobby Meacham.

Enjoy the All Star break. A few days away from Bisons baseball is probably a good thing right abut now.

AROUND THE BASES

Congratulations to Jason Leblebijian, Bisons third baseman named to the AAA All Star team next week, Buffalo’s only entrant in this year’s contest.

And also congratulations to long retired New York Met Bobby Bonilla. After a dismal 1999 season, the team could have cut their losses and just paid him the ridiculous $5.9 million salary he was entitled to. Instead, they chose to defer his salary, thus every July 1, he gets a check for $1,193,248.20 sent to his home in Sarasota, Florida. That annual payout will continue until 2035. No that is not a typo.