Estrada not worried about his workload
Jays right-hander has been prone to homers as he sets personal highs for starts, innings
ATLANTA— Marco Estrada returns to the site of his first major-league win when he faces the Braves at Turner Field on Thursday. And while the 32-year-old right-hander, who won here on April 6, 2011, has already made more starts and logged more innings than in any of his previous major-league seasons, he is not worried.
Estrada was originally slated to start on Friday at Rogers Centre against the Red Sox, but manager John Gibbons changed his rotation. The Jays will go with a fiveman group, and the ostracized Drew Hutchison will work out of the bullpen with the opportunity for an occasional start if Mark Buehrle or Marcus Stroman needs extra time.
“I wasn’t really sure when I was supposed to pitch,” Estrada said. “I never looked that far ahead. I worried about my next one and when we were in New York, I knew off days were coming up and something was going to have to change just because we had six starters.
“I didn’t really put any thought into it. I was just worried about pitching in New York and once that outing finished, the next day I did ask because I do have a routine that I have to follow. So I kind of wanted to know when I was pitching. Once I was told it was Thursday, then it was OK.” Estrada has pitched 1521⁄ innings and
3 has already made 24 starts, both career highs. Over his last six starts, he has allowed 10 home runs in 342⁄ innings, al
3 though many of those were when he was leading and likely trying to challenge hitters. Estrada led the majors with 29 homers allowed in 2014 with the Brewers. Estrada knows the numbers and workload, but swears it is not an issue.
“Nothing’s changed, I go out there and try to get the job done,” Estrada said. “My last (game in New York) was a little rough, but the boys helped me out and we came back and won. Not every start’s going to be perfect. But physically I feel good, I feel really good. I’ve toned down a couple of things with workouts, but other than that body feels good, mind’s good, so I’m ready to pitch.”
Gibbons knows the possibility exists that any one of Estrada, Buehrle or Stroman may need a start off and he feels good that he has a sixth starter ready, willing and able to go in Drew Hutchison. But he hopes he doesn’t need him in that spot-starting role unless it’s after the Jays have clinched a post-season berth. He is well aware of the load that Estrada has carried to this point and with four more starts remaining.
“In a lot of ways he’s saved us this year, the way he’s pitched,” Gibbons said of Estrada’s emergence from the bullpen. “He’s starting to chalk up innings, so you don’t know what’s going to happen. But it is good to have Hutch. He’s not totally eliminated from the rotation. Whoever it might be, if they need an extra day for some reason, he can slot in.”
Estrada, in parts of seven major-league seasons, started out with some mediocre Washington Nationals teams and then was part of a playoff club in 2011 with Milwaukee. But there is a special feeling with this group of Blue Jays where he feels they know they have each other’s back.
“We know how good this team is, Estrada said. “We’re just having fun, to be honest with you. We’re not worried about the outcome — we are, but we’re not. We basically feel we’re going to win and it’s a good feeling to walk in this clubhouse and have that over your shoulders that you feel like you’re going to win. We have a very good team, one of the best and it’s a close group of guys. Basically the entire team spent the off-day (Monday) together. It shows you how close we are.”