DETROIT -- Aaron Sanchez displayed no signs of damage to his middle finger on his pitching hand -- a finger that has already cost him so much -- ahead of his start on Friday against Detroit. After pitching six strong innings in a 7-2 victory, he did his part to quell any talk of a lingering injury.
"As of now, there's no reins on [the finger]," said Sanchez, who gave up seven hits and an unearned run with four strikeouts. "I have to get back to where I was last year and tonight was a good start for me."
On three separate occasions this season, Sanchez (1-2) has gone to the disabled list to deal with his troublesome finger. In mid-April, he had a blister. At the beginning of May, it was a split nail. Then most recently, Sanchez had a laceration.
He shrugged off the gruesome numbers from his last start, in which he allowed eight runs (five earned) in 1 2/3 innings against Houston, saying he felt his pitches had "a lot of good action" and he wasn't catching any breaks.
The way the Tigers started against Sanchez on Friday, he feared the same result. In the second inning, J.D. Martinez slapped an infield hit to second base, and Andrew Romine flared a double to left. Both hits had an exit velocity below 80 mph and a hit probability below 40 percent, according to Statcast™.
With Martinez and Romine in scoring position, Sanchez got Jose Iglesias to ground out to short on a 2-0 pitch to end the inning. Another threat surfaced in the third, before Sanchez stranded runners on the corners by blowing a 97-mph fastball past Martinez.
Sanchez had thrown 62 pitches by the end of the third, something he called uncharacteristic. But he only needed 39 pitches to complete his next three innings, thanks to finding his command and repeating his proper release.
"My stuff moves so much, you have to be really right with that release point or stuff's going to fall off the dish," he said. "So for me, it was just to find that release point, find that release point. And then once I got it, I just kind of grabbed it and ran."
The biggest test of Sanchez's night may have come in the fifth, with a one-run lead, two runners on and Miguel Cabrera at the plate. With his first pitch, Sanchez located a two-seam fastball running in on Cabrera, who bounced it up the middle for a routine 6-4-3 double play.
"I liked everything I saw tonight and hopefully that propels him," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "And his finger feels good. It wouldn't surprise me if he got on a nice little roll."
Sanchez has only made seven starts this season, less than half as many as he had at this point last year. But getting on a roll, and building momentum for a team that desperately needs it, often begins with one player. To be that player, Sanchez simply needs time and health.
"I think, for me right now, it's just reps," Sanchez said. "The more reps I get, the more comfortable I get, the better I'll be. But that's a good start."
Jordan Horrobin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Detroit. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.