Toronto Blue Jays: Uncertainty looms over Aaron Sanchez

May 19, 2017; Baltimore, MD, USA; Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Sanchez (41) throws a pitch in the sixth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
May 19, 2017; Baltimore, MD, USA; Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Sanchez (41) throws a pitch in the sixth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports /

Aaron Sanchez‘s ongoing blister problem has understandably made him frustrated, but the problem for the Toronto Blue Jays is there is no definitive timetable for when he might return.

Aaron Sanchez isn’t the first pitcher in baseball to deal with blisters, and he certainly won’t be the last. In fact, he’s not the even the first Toronto Blue Jays pitcher to deal with an ongoing blister issue.

Former Blue Jays pitcher Al Leiter dealt with blisters throughout his career and would spend as much as six to eight weeks on the disabled list because he had a hard time allowing it to heal properly, which is exactly what Sanchez is going through now.

Much like Leiter, Sanchez knows the only way his blister will heal is if he does absolutely no throwing and gives it ample time to recover. Here’s what a frustrated Sanchez had to say to Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith on Tuesday:

"“It’s not getting any better. I can’t keep having this issue every inning and have to go check. This game’s already hard enough to have to go out there and compete. I’m beating myself up trying to go in there and pitch through it. It’s not doing me any good, it’s not doing the team any good. The only thing that’s going to help it heal is not doing anything, not playing catch, just letting it heal.”"

Giving his blister the proper amount of time to heal sounds like an easy remedy, but it doesn’t guarantee he will never suffer from this issue again. That uncertainty is exactly where the problem lies for both Sanchez and the Blue Jays.

Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto Blue Jays /

Toronto Blue Jays

For a pitcher, a blister develops from the friction of throwing a baseball and gripping the seams, which then creates a large amount of heat and moisture underneath their fingers. Although it’s only a surface level injury, its painful nature can derail a pitcher’s ability to throw.

Where this becomes problematic for Sanchez is that his fingernail has already cracked, so the tip of his finger needs to heal as a whole and his finger needs to learn to properly regulate the heat and moisture he generates when throwing a baseball.

The other factor with Sanchez’s blister issue is how to treat it. There are numerous blister prevention programs out there, but all of them are subjective to the person. Just because soaking your fingers in pickle juice or urine, or exposing them to arid conditions like Rich Hill did last season with the Dodgers works, doesn’t mean it will work for Sanchez. Now, this isn’t to say he needs to take a surgeon’s scalpel and cut off a layer of skin from his finger tips like Nolan Ryan did in 1979, which, although disgusting in nature, was wonderfully depicted in Bruce Newman’s profile of Ryan in Sports Illustrated, but it does give you an idea of how drastic — and imperfect — treatment for blisters can be.

A common thought process out there is Sanchez just needs to build up calluses on his fingers and he’ll be fine. According to Leiter, though, that’s not true, and he went into detail about it in Eric Nusbaum’s fantastic piece for Vice Sports.

"“The whole misnomer of growing a callus is bullshit. You don’t want a callus, because the ball pushes up against the callus and you get a blister underneath. You’ve got layers of skin. It wasn’t the outside that would blister, so now you have the blister underneath the callus and that whole piece of skin would peel off.”"

Nusbaum’s piece is all about Hill and other pitchers who have dealt with blisters and it goes into great detail about just how complex this injury can be. Former relief pitcher, Mike Marshall, told Nusbaum blister prevention all comes down to fingernail length and daily hand care/maintenance could easily prevent some of these issues.

More from Tip of the Tower

It’s a fascinating read and I highly recommend it if you’re curious to learn more about how detrimental blisters can be to a pitcher. Unfortunately, though, it only reinforces the notion that Sanchez will more than likely miss an extended period of time and there is no guarantee this issue won’t happen again.

Ideally, Sanchez’s finger will heal with ample amount of rest and he can move forward from this. However, given how humid it can be during the summer in Toronto, Sanchez’s finger tips are bound to soften up and that could be problematic. It’s all hypothetical at this point, but it is a real possibility for Sanchez.

Does this mean the Jays should have Sanchez pitch with the dome closed to try to create a more dry atmosphere for him? That’s perhaps an extreme approach since Sanchez’s fingers will be exposed to other elements when they pitch on the road, but it is a possibility.

Ultimately, these next few weeks will be crucial for Sanchez. If everything goes well, he could just miss a month of time like Hill did last year after the trade deadline and jump right back into the Blue Jays’ rotation for the remainder of the season.

Next: Jays expect Donaldson, Tulowitzki back this weekend

All of this uncertainty looming over Sanchez’s fingers is a massive problem for the Blue Jays, though, and without a definitive timetable the team is left in limbo not only wondering what’s next for their budding superstar pitcher, but also what direction they should go in with this roster.