The Toronto Blue Jays added another moving piece to their bullpen puzzle today with word that Marco Estrada would be available to make a relief appearance in Toronto’s fifth and deciding game. Estrada started game three of the series on Saturday, going 6.1 innings while allowing one run on five hits and striking out four.
Estrada has made 89 career relief appearances and owns a 4.09 ERA coming out of the bullpen with a 1.216 WHIP, both numbers slightly above his averages as a starter. Opposing hitters have managed a triple-slash of .231 / .298 / .393 off Estrada in relief, but given the fundamental changes he’s made to his pitching approach in 2015, I’m not sure we can give these numbers much weight.
John Gibbons indicated earlier this afternoon that David Price was unlikely to be available out of the ‘pen, and while I initially saw that as a bluff, perhaps Estrada’s availability indicates that Gibbons speaks the truth. The variable to consider with Price is Aaron Loup, whose status for Wednesday’s game remains uncertain as he continues to deal with a personal matter. If Loup cannot return, Price may be necessary regardless of preference.
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Seeing Estrada on Wednesday does not seem all that likely, especially given the enormous potential of Marcus Stroman and the strong bullpen that already exists without the addition of starters. I’d assume that Estrada would only be seen if Stroman runs into trouble before the fifth inning and David Price truly is a non-option.
He certainly had the Texas Rangers hitters fooled this past weekend, with many of them looking like they hadn’t seen a changeup before in their lives. His fastball location was excellent once again, but keep in mind that the performance came in cooperation with Dioner Navarro, who Estrada has posted much stronger numbers with. How would he work in a long-relief appearance with Russell Martin? There are variables to consider with this one.
Regardless, this further signals the Blue Jays plan to empty the chamber on Wednesday. Rightfully so, as getting caught up in having a quality rotation aligned for the ALCS will be a moot point unless this game is won. A Toronto victory would set them up to open the ALCS on Friday and Saturday with an off day to follow on Sunday. One of Price or Estrada could very well open that series, but first, we’ll need to see if either makes a late appearance Wednesday.