SPORTS

Hard-throwing Sanchez back to stingy self, blanks Pirates for three innings

03/08/2015 03:40 EDT | Updated 05/08/2015 05:59 EDT
DUNEDIN, Fla. - Toronto right-hander Aaron Sanchez was back to his stingy self Sunday, rebounding from a shaky spring debut to throw three scoreless innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"I felt good out there," said the 22-year-old Sanchez, whose 41-pitch effort was perfect other than a walk. "Obviously my first start, it is what it is ... so to get back out there and get my feet wet, and then go out there and do what I did today is just something to build off."

The Pirates pitchers were just as good with seven of them combining for a 1-0 victory on a sunny 22-degree day at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.

Pittsburgh outhit Toronto 6-3, with two of those hits coming in a ninth inning that saw Ryan Goins hit into a double play.

It marked the sixth spring outing for the Blue Jays (3-3) and their third against the Pirates (3-2).

Sanchez is competing for the role of fifth starter but could well be headed back to the role of closer in his second major-league season. With Daniel Norris and Marco Estrada, Toronto has other options to join R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Marcus Stroman and Drew Hutchison in the rotation.

There is no obvious alternate at closer. Brett Cecil has put his hand up for the job and could see some action there but manager John Gibbons seems to want Cecil as a left-handed option to extinguish fires earlier in the game.

Cecil is currently on the shelf with an inflamed shoulder but is expected to resume throwing next week.

"At the end of the day they're the ones going to be making the decisions," said Sanchez. "And I'm going to be the one, whether it's starting or closing, who's going to be happy. So to me it doesn't matter."

Neither team managed a hit until Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson singled to left field in the bottom of the fourth. A pair of Pirates doubles off Scott Barnes in the fifth put Pittsburgh ahead 1-0.

Sanchez opened with two perfect innings, recording two strikeouts and four infield outs. He was helped by stellar fielding plays by first baseman Justin Smoak and second baseman Maicer Izturis.

A walk, stolen base and throwing error by catcher Dioner Navarro put a man on third with two outs in the third but Sanchez struck out Steve Lombardozzi to snuff out the charge.

His fastball was clocked at 96 miles per hour.

Pittsburgh starter Casey Sadler was also sharp, with three strikeouts over three perfect innings.

Sanchez, who did not give up an earned run in six spring training games last year, exited after 10 batters in his spring debut Tuesday. He gave up five runs (two earned) in 1 1/3 innings, including a three-run homer after a fielding error complicated matters.

In just his second spring game, star outfielder Jose Bautista struck out and walked before giving way to a pinch-runner Sunday.

A pitch by Toronto's Todd Redmond managed to hit both Pirates hitter Francisco Cervelli and home umpire D.J. Reyburn in the fourth inning. Neither was injured.

Pirates shortstop prospect Gift Ngoepe, a 25-year-old South African, dazzled with some of his fielding.

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