Where would the Toronto Blue Jays be without the services of Marco Estrada? It’s a question we’ve bounced around over the past few weeks, and the answer is a little nerve-wracking. Still pitching with the same edge that helped him persevere through an early-season bullpen stint, Estrada continues to give the Blue Jays his best. With an edge.
Now 13-8 through 160.1 innings pitched, Estrada has closed any door on talks of regression to his career norms. The right-hander has complimented a fantastic changeup with adjustments to his fastball location and release point, leaving him with a 3.14 ERA. His opponent’s batting average stands out from the crowd, too, at just .205. (!!!)
His 2015 season has been filled with doubters, myself being one of the loudest throughout March and April. It’s difficult to imagine that all of these Blue Jays fans have not joined me in seeing the light with Estrada, but to the few that haven’t, Estrada has a message.
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“If you don’t believe in me now, that’s fine. I don’t need you behind me,” he tells John Lott of the National Post in this great feature from Friday. This is the attitude from Estrada that initially appealed me to him, or at least helped to bring down my wall. When asked about his preference between starting or relieving much earlier in the season, Estrada never held back. He was a starter, and that’s where be believed he belonged. In the world of professional sports, honest answers to difficult questions are beyond refreshing.
“I think I’ve proven everybody wrong,” Estrada said. “I’m kind of tired of hearing about it, to be honest. I don’t know what else I can do to prove people wrong. But I think I’ve done enough already,” Estrada continued, and it’s impossible to argue with him. If Estrada has not locked down the middle of the rotation this year, where would the Blue Jays be with those starts going to Matt Boyd, Daniel Norris, Scott Copeland or Felix Doubront?
Manager John Gibbons has taken notice, and assuming the trend continues for Estrada, he should find himself emerging from a cloudy playoff rotation picture with a job. The club may choose to get him some added rest before the time comes as he’ll be pushing a career-high workload, but Estrada has shown no signs of slowing down.
“It’s almost like he’s mastered what you want out of a pitcher,” Gibbons tells Lott. “In the big leagues, it’s not good enough just to throw strikes. You’ve got to hit corners. That’s what he does.”