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Starter or closer, Sanchez willing to do what it takes to help Blue Jays in 2015

01/23/2015 06:00 EST | Updated 03/25/2015 05:59 EDT
VANCOUVER - Aaron Sanchez is preparing for the 2015 season as if he's going to be in the Toronto Blue Jays' starting rotation on opening day.

But if the hard-throwing 22-year-old is needed in the bullpen, he's willing to take on that task as well.

"I'm getting in shape to make 35 starts this year," Sanchez said Friday. "If that changes they'll let me know, but my mentality right now is going into spring training as a starter."

Toronto made a splash in the off-season by adding Canadian catcher Russell Martin and third baseman Josh Donaldson to an already potent lineup. However the strength and depth of the bullpen remains the biggest question mark moving forward.

The Blue Jays are without a proven closer at the moment after parting ways with Casey Janssen, and Sanchez's name has been tossed around as a possible internal replacement.

"I try and stay away from that in the off-season," said Sanchez. "They're going to make the decision they're going to make. I'm here to do whatever it takes. This team has a chance to win a lot of ball games.

"If me pitching at the back end of the bullpen makes this team win more games then that's what I'm going to do."

Starting was what the native of Barstow, Calif., had done for most of his career up until last season when the Blue Jays called him up from triple-A and used him as a reliever for each of his 33 big league innings.

The six-foot-four, 200-pound Sanchez finished 2014 with a 2-2 record to go along with a 1.09 earned-run average in 24 games, including three saves.

As the Blue Jays' winter tour rolled into Vancouver on Friday, Toronto starter Marcus Stroman said he's confident his friend and roommate will turn heads regardless.

"Whichever it is I feel like he's going to dominate. He can do both," said Stroman. "We're just going to see how it plays out, but he's more than capable of closing or starting.

"Whatever the case may be I think we're going to put together the best team possible."

As it stands now, the Blue Jays' rotation includes veterans R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle, as well as Stroman, Drew Hutchison — who was also in Vancouver on the winter tour — and either Sanchez or Daniel Norris.

Martin met Sanchez, Stroman and Hutchison for the first time since signing as a free agent in November and is eager to get to work with the entire pitching staff.

"I think we're kind of used to picking the weaknesses of a team, and I don't even know if (the bullpen) is a weakness at this point," said Martin, who was born in Toronto and grew up in Chelsea, Que. "There hasn't been one game played this year. There's years where you go into a season and you think you have a weakness and it ends up being a strength.

"With the bullpen you never know. Bullpens are tricky. It just takes a couple guys to click."

While it's clear Sanchez would prefer to start, he's also just happy to do his part in what will hopefully be his first full season in the majors.

"This is what I've always wanted to do. You don't really have time to take a step back and look at it," he said. "It's unbelievable to be here at such a young age contributing to one of the best lineups in baseball. It's surreal."

Note: Blue Jays president and CEO Paul Beeston was at Friday's event, but did not speak to the media. Rumours have circulated in recent weeks that the club is looking to replace the 69-year-old with Baltimore Orioles executive vice-president Dan Duquette.

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