Sanchez turns focus to pitch count with job secure

Sanchez turns focus to pitch count with job secure

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- It had to be one of the oddest and emotionally toughest starts of Jonathan Sanchez's career.

A few hours after the Pirates notified him that he made their team and starting rotation, Sanchez had to make a Grapefruit League start against one of the Majors' toughest lineups, tasked with proving they made the right choice.

The left-hander dismissed that element of a 4 2/3-innings outing in which he gave up seven hits and four runs -- three of them in the first -- against the Blue Jays.

"When I got the news this morning, I was excited," Sanchez said after Pittsburgh's 6-3 loss. "But the game, it's all the same. When you're in there, it's just a game. You always got to go and do your best."

Even as Clint Hurdle took the ball from Sanchez with two out in the fifth, the manager praised the outing, adversely affected by blustery conditions at Toronto's spring facility.

"[Hurdle] said, 'Great job. You did what you had to do. We wanted you to get your pitch count up, and you did,'" Sanchez said. "And he congratulated me."

Sanchez didn't have the best luck in the three-run first. Melky Cabrera's popup fell about 20 feet from home plate for a single when the wind pushed it away from catcher Michael McKenry, who looked for help that did not come from first baseman Gaby Sanchez.

An eight-pitch walk of Jose Bautista was followed by J.P. Arencibia's single for one run, Mark DeRosa's sacrifice fly for another and Adam Lind's double -- also wind-aided -- for a third.

"Those two flies to center … one we were not able to defend [Lind's double], the other carried out of the park [Rajai Davis' solo homer in the fourth]. But he pitched well," Hurdle said. "His confidence is growing. He looks more comfortable."

Sanchez threw 85 pitches and will shoot for 100 his next time out in either a simulated game in Pittsburgh or a Minor League start in extended spring training. His first regular-season start won't come until April 7 against the Dodgers.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.