Marco Estrada has pitched with an ailing back for the past couple of seasons and probably always will. It is one of the hazards that can come with the job.
But the pain’s continuance has once again thrown the Toronto Blue Jays rotation into disarray.
Before Wednesday night’s game against the New York Mets at Rogers Centre, the Blue Jays revealed that Estrada is suffering from a strain to one of his left glute muscles, an issue he has been trying to work through for almost two weeks.
The cheeky ailment finally got the better of Estrada in Tuesday night’s opener against the Mets when he was pulled from the game after just 12 pitches because the pain was so severe.
“It was just too much for me to take,” a gloomy Estrada said on Wednesday.
The Blue Jays are hoping that Estrada can avoid the disabled list, but there are no guarantees as Toronto manager John Gibbons is quick to point out.
The Blue Jays will take a day or so to see how Estrada responds to treatment before determining their next step. The American League club is fortunate that they have a couple of off days over the next week – one on Thursday before the New York Yankees come to town, and then again on Monday – so there is no huge rush to plot Estrada’s future.
“My goal is to work on it as much as I can and hopefully be ready for the next one,” Estrada said.
If he does go on the DL, he will be joining two other starters already there: Aaron Sanchez and Jaime Garcia.
Sanchez, sidelined since June 22 with a bruised right index finger, has not even progressed to the point where he is throwing off the mound, so he is still a way off from returning.
Garcia, out since June 20 with left shoulder inflammation, did some long tossing on Wednesday and reportedly felt good. The team said Garcia “will be re-evaluated for mound progression later this week.”
Marcus Stroman, one of the remaining healthy Toronto starters, took the mound Wednesday night, but he was far from peak form.
Stroman got crunched for six runs off six hits through just 4 2/3 innings as the Mets (34-49) won 6-3 to leave town with a 1-1 split. Toronto fell to 40-46.
Stroman walked four, two of which came in to score, and predictably he was not happy with his outing.
“Just lost feel,” Stroman said. “Just didn’t have a feel for anything…from pitch one to be honest with you.
“I walked the leadoff batter, super uncharacteristic of me. Just had trouble getting a grip on pitches but it is what it is, just look forward to the next one.”
The Mets’ big inning was the fifth when they sent 10 batters to the plate and scored five runs, the biggest blow a two-run home run by Todd Frazier off Stroman, his 10th of the season.
Former Blue Jay Jose Bautista contributed a run-scoring single during the fifth-inning hit parade.
Wednesday was the U.S. Independence Day holiday and the Blue Jays did their part to recognize it. They had little U.S. flags stitched on their right sleeves for the occasion.
Several of the players also took to wearing snazzy stars-and-stripes socks, including Toronto designated hitter Kendrys Morales, who took things a step further, wearing cleats that were also emblazoned with the stars and stripes.
And those cleats were put to use when Morales pelted a 1-2 pitch from New York starter Corey Oswalt in the second inning into the right-field stands, his ninth home run of the year, which gave Toronto an early 1-0 lead.
Morales also doubled and then scored in the fourth, which moved Toronto ahead 2-1 before things went sour in the fifth. He finished with three hits as did Russell Martin, just his fourth multi-hit game of the season.
For Martin, he recorded his 500th A.L. hit in the game and is one of seven active players with 500-plus hits in both the A.L. and National League.
Estrada said that the hip first started giving him trouble when he pitched in Anaheim against the Los Angeles Angels on June 22.
He said he was pretty sore after that start, received some treatment, and felt good to go last week in Houston. But the pain started anew after that, culminating in Tuesday’s abbreviated outing against the Mets.
The injury is a setback to Estrada, who appeared to be smoothing out the edges of his game after a couple of uneven starts.
In four outings up until and including the start in Anaheim, Estrada lasted at least six innings with a 1.75 earned-run average and an opponent’s batting average of just .178.
The injury could be even more costly considering Estrada is heading into free agency at the year’s end.
“All I’m thinking about is pitching for these guys and that’s it,” he said.