Jose Bautista hit a long home run for the Toronto Blue Jays in a 6-3 win over the Boston Red Sox on Thursday.
Bautista’s first-inning drive off Henry Owens easily cleared the 333-foot mark in left field and landed in a patch of oak trees. The five-time All-Star batted .286 with 35 homers and 103 RBIs in 155 games last season.
Toronto starter Aaron Sanchez allowed three runs on grounders by Brock Holt and Daniel Nava in the third and a sacrifice fly from Allen Craig in the sixth. The right-hander yielded four hits, walked one and struck out three in 5 1-3 innings.
Manager John Gibbons said though the team had originally planned for the 22-year-old to start the season in the bullpen, it likely doesn’t have much of a choice but to put him in the rotation after Marcus Stroman’s season-ending knee injury last Tuesday.
“I think he’s pretty much locked in to where he is now,” Gibbons said. “That could change, but I would be very surprised by that.”
Danny Valencia added a two-run homer for the Blue Jays in the fourth.
Red Sox: Owens, one of Boston’s top pitching prospects, gave up five runs and five hits in three innings. The lefty also walked one, struck out one and threw 58 pitches. He is expected to start the season at Triple-A Pawtucket.
Blue Jays: Sanchez has been working to develop a slider and believes it can be used as an alternative to his breaking ball.
“I think it’s just an addition to my repertoire,” he said. “I don’t necessarily need it. Obviously it’s a huge weapon. If I start to master that, it’s just another weapon in my arsenal that I have to keep guys off-balance.”
Red Sox: RHP Joe Kelly (right bicep soreness) threw a bullpen session without any restrictions Thursday and should be ready to start on Sunday against Philadelphia. “An encouraging day,” manager John Farrell said. … RHP Koji Uehara (strained left hamstring) played long toss and is scheduled to begin cardio and weight-room exercises soon. … DH David Ortiz (dehydration) did not make the trip.
Blue Jays: OF Michael Saunders (torn left meniscus) went 1 for 5 with a single in a minor league game. Saunders, who sustained the injury on Feb. 26 when he stepped on a sprinkler while shagging fly balls, appeared at DH and did not run the bases. “Now, it’s about getting my timing back,” he said. “I felt like I was seeing the ball well. … I’m ecstatic to be where I am at right now.”
WHO’S ON FIRST?
With Edwin Encarnacion hindered by lingering back soreness and slow starts at the plate by offseason acquisitions Justin Smoak and Daric Barton — hitting a combined .113 — Gibbons has not ruled out putting Valencia at first base to open the regular season. Valencia started at first on Thursday.
Red Sox: Justin Masterson is to start Friday against the Orioles in Fort Myers. The right-hander has struggled in three starts, allowing seven runs — six earned — in 8 1-3 innings.
Blue Jays: Lefty Daniel Norris makes his fourth exhibition start against the Rays on Friday in Port Charlotte. Norris, a contender for the fifth spot in Toronto’s rotation, allowed three hits, walked one and struck out four on Saturday against a Yankees’ split squad.