Blue Jays left-hander Francisco Liriano was removed from the American League division series roster Saturday after he sustained a concussion in Toronto’s Game 2 win over Texas.
Right-hander Danny Barnes will replace Liriano, who left in the eighth inning Friday after being hit in the back of the head by Carlos Gomez’s line drive. Liriano is not eligible to return for seven days.
The Blue Jays lead the series 2-0. Game 3 is 4:30 p.m. EDT on Sunday at Toronto.
Head athletic trainer George Poulis said Liriano felt good after tests Saturday. “We’re going to examine him each day and just go from there,” Poulis said.
Players who sustain a concussion must be cleared by Major League Baseball before returning.
Liriano left after being struck by the ball, which ricocheted into right field for an RBI single. He was replaced by Roberto Osuna, who got the final five outs as Toronto won, 5-3.
Toronto will send 24-year-old Aaron Sanchez cracked Toronto’s starting rotation after a solid performance in spring training, the team said it planned to move him to a relief role at some point to limit his workload. The thinking was a full season of starting would be too much for a pitcher whose previous career high was 133 1-3 innings, reached at three levels in 2014.
“We were all set that he was going to eventually end up in the bullpen,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said as both teams worked out Saturday for Game 3 of the AL Division Series. “That was the plan in spring training.”
Those plans went out the window as Sanchez pitched like an ace, earned an All-Star berth, and led the AL with a 3.00 ERA.
“We thought it would be crazy to take him out of that role,” Gibbons said. “He’s been so good, one of the best pitchers in baseball.”
Sanchez got extra rest between starts over the final two months, even spending 10 days in the minor leagues, in order to stay fresh. Toronto also acquired left-hander Francisco Liriano at the trade deadline and briefly used a six-man rotation to spread the work out even more.
Right-hander Colby Lewis, who is 4-1 with a 2.38 ERA in nine career postseason games, will start for the Rangers.
“He can definitely be our stopper,” Rangers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said.
Texas has not been swept in a playoff series since back-to-back ALDS losses to the New York Yankees in 1998 and 1999. Dating to 2015, the Rangers have lost five straight postseason games, all to Toronto.
“There’s no panic in this club,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said.