May 08, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Toronto Blue Jays have opted to go with a six-man rotation instead of moving Cy Young candidate Aaron Sanchez to the bullpen.

Sanchez makes his 22nd start Saturday against the Kansas City Royals. He has thrown a career-high 139 1/3 innings.

"If all six of them are throwing good, we'll keep rolling with it," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "If somebody's scuffling and we want to change things up, we can do that. We're just going to roll with this. We like all six. See where the hell it goes."

Sanchez is 11-1 with an American League best 2.71 ERA, while holding opposing batters to a .225 average.

After acquiring left-hander Francisco Liriano in a Monday trade from the Pittsburgh Pirates, the original plan was to have Sanchez pitch out of the bullpen the final two months of the season, keeping his innings and pitches down.

That, however, created a commotion among the players, who are in a win-now mode.

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins flew to Houston to meet with the players and the organization did an about-face on opting to keep the hard-throwing Sanchez in the rotation.

Sanchez, who had not suffered a loss since April 22 to the Athletics, has thrown 2,078 pitches this year. He threw 474 pitches in five July starts, going at least seven innings in four of them.

With a six-man rotation and a seven-man bullpen, Gibbons has only a three-man bench.

"But, we'll deal with it," Gibbons said. "You know, we definitely ... get to September as quick as you can, get reinforcements."

Liriano gave up three runs (one unearned) in six innings Friday in his first Toronto start. He allowed seven hits and walked two in a no-decision. The Blue Jays won 4-3 with Devon Travis hitting a pair of home runs.

While Sanchez is difficult to score on, the Royals have had difficulty scoring upon anyone lately. They have not recorded more than three runs in nine straight games, which is a club record for one season. They went 11 straight games scoring three or fewer runs, but that was stretched over two seasons from Oct. 4, 1991-April 14, 1992.

"It's a broken record," Royals manager Ned Yost said of his club's no-nuke offense. "And we've got to face an All-Star pitcher (Saturday)."

The Royals scored 20 runs in their past nine games, while hitting .205 with a .253 on-base percentage and a .309 slugging percentage.

The Royals counter with left-hander Danny Duffy, who has also been dominant recently. He gave up one hit -- an eighth inning double to Desmond Jennings -- and struck out a club record 16 Rays on Monday in his previous start.

Duffy has won six straight decisions and leads the American League with 92 strikeouts since June 1, averaging 10.62 per nine innings in that span. He is 3-0 with a 3.79 ERA this season at Kauffman Stadium.

Duffy, however, does not have a good track record against the Blue Jays. He is 1-3 with a 6.97 ERA in five career appearances (four starts) against Toronto.

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