Sanchez makes first start for Blue Jays since June vs. Phillies

TORONTO — Aaron Sanchez had wondered if he would pitch again this season after he injured a finger on a suitcase in June.

The wondering will be over Saturday afternoon when the right-hander takes the mound at the Rogers Centre to start the second game of a three-game series with the Philadelphia Phillies (69-59).

Sanchez (3-5, 3.52 ERA) will face Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta (7-0, 4.66).

The Blue Jays (59-69) lead the season series 3-1 after winning two of three games in Philadelphia in May and taking the opener of the current series 4-2 on Friday night as Kendrys Morales homered for a career-best fifth game.

Sanchez has not pitched since June 21 when he allowed two runs in one inning of an 8-5 loss in Anaheim against the Los Angeles Angels. He could not continue because of what was described as a contusion of the right index finger.

“Honestly, I didn’t feel I was going to make it back,” Sanchez said. “I mean, I’ve missed so much time the last few years. Just to be able to be back here, hopefully contribute these last weeks I have. I’m looking forward to it.”

Last season, he was limited to 36 innings because of a blister on his right middle finger.

This time, it was the right middle finger that he injured just before he was to start in Anaheim.

“It got stuck up in my suitcase and I didn’t want to say it then because I saw (Kansas City Royals catcher) Salvador Perez go down with the same injury and I didn’t want to get laughed at,” Sanchez said. “And it’s probably none of your business how it happened.”

The finger bent awkwardly in the luggage handle as the bag started to fall.

He pitched the same day; the first time had pitched in California with his family in attendance.

He has pitched in two rehabilitation start — one at Class A Dunedin and the other with Double-A New Hampshire.

With New Hampshire on Monday, he allowed three earned runs in 4 1/3 innings. Fewer than half of his pitches were strikes (42 of 86), but he was deemed ready to start Saturday.

“I don’t get attached to numbers in rehab starts,” Sanchez said. “I’m out there to make sure I’m working on what I need to work on. I’m throwing changeups and curveballs in counts I would never throw (them). I got 80 pitches to work on what I needed to work on.”

Sanchez has pitched one perfect inning of relief in his career against the Phillies.

Pivetta, a native of Victoria, British Columbia, has started once in his career against the Blue Jays. He took the loss May 27 when he allowed two runs, four hits and two walks while striking out seven in five innings.

Despite the loss Friday, the Phillies remained three games out of first in the National League because the division-leading Atlanta Braves also lost.

“We need to play better, and the Braves need not to play as well,” said Phillies starter Jake Arrieta, who took the loss Friday. “If those two things happen, we’ll be fine. There’s no need to panic, but we need to stay locked into the game.”

The Phillies have lost five of their past six games. They are 28-37 on the road and are 5-13 in their past 18 away games.

Phillies catcher Wilson Ramos returned to action Friday after missing three games with a sore left wrist and was 1-for-3 with a sacrifice fly and a pickoff at first base.

The Blue Jays welcomed infielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. back to the lineup Friday. He was activated from the disabled list, where he had been since July 30 because of a sprained left ankle.

He played shortstop and was 1-for-4 with one RBI to extend his hitting streak to 12 games. His streak of 11 straight games with two or more hits ended, however.

Infielder Richard Urena was returned to Triple-A Buffalo on option to clear roster space for Gurriel.