Toronto starter Aaron Sanchez ran into trouble early Tuesday as the Blue Jays opened their Grapefruit League schedule with an 8-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Pedro Alvarez, Jung Ho Kang and Elias Diaz homered for the Pirates, who led 6-0 early.
Kevin Pillar homered for Toronto, which made it close on Josh Thole's two-run single with two outs in the eighth and another run in the ninth when the Jays left the bases loaded.
Dalton Pompey, competing for the Jays' open centre-field spot, engineered a run in the third when he singled, stole second, took third on a sacrifice fly and scored on a Jose Bautista groundout. Pillar had earlier driven two runs home with his shot over the left-field fence.
With left field open for the time being due to Michael Saunders's knee injury, manager John Gibbons switched Pompey to left and Pillar to centre in the fifth. Pompey responded with an acrobatic catch but then lost a fly ball that dropped in for a double and scored a run.
Toronto catcher Russell Martin slammed a ball off the left-field wall in the fifth but had to settle for a single.
Jays reliever Wilton Lopez provided the Jays' first 1-2-3 inning, in the seventh.
Sanchez finished last season as Toronto's closer but is being given the chance to earn a regular spot in the rotation.
Five runs (two earned) in 1 1/3 innings proved to be a tough start to spring training for Sanchez, who did not give up an earned run in six games in spring training last year. He exited after four outs and 10 batters Tuesday.
"Just today wasn't my day," said the 22-year-old Sanchez. "But I can learn from that."
It started well for the Jays with two fine fielding plays. First Sanchez stabbed a Jeff Decker liner aimed at his head. Then, off-balance after fielding the ball near home plate, Martin threw out Sean Rodriguez. A two-out error by third baseman Josh Donaldson left men on first and second, however, and Alvarez punished Sanchez with a three-run homer.
"It's spring training for everybody," said Sanchez. "You can't go out there and rely on guys making plays and (umpires) making calls, you've got to make your pitches and I didn't do that today."
A Decker double in the second drove in two more runs and ended Sanchez's afternoon on a sunny 25-degree day before 4,593 at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.
Gibbons rolled out a strong lineup with shortstop Jose Reyes at leadoff, followed by Martin, right-fielder Bautista, designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion, Donaldson, first baseman Justin Smoak, second baseman Maicer Izturis, Pillar and Pompey.
Both teams emptied their benches as the somewhat sloppy game wore on. Daric Barton singled in a Jays run in the fifth but Chris Colabello struck out with the bases loaded.
Pittsburgh starter Casey Sadler, who went 11-4 with a 3.03 earned-run average last season with Class-AAA Indianapolis before being called up, faced just six batters in his two innings with a Donaldson double play erasing a walk.