Marco Estrada expects to be with Blue Jays on opening day


Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada is expecting to open the 2016 season on the 25-man roster after throwing a simulated game on Saturday

Marco Estrada expects to be ready for opening day with the Toronto Blue Jays, even if he’s not ready for a full workload in his first start.

After a slow start to spring caused by back stiffness and the club’s decision to bring him along slowly after a career-high workload in 2015, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet reports that Estrada is feeling much better following a 35-pitch simulated game on Saturday.

“I’ll be ready for sure,” Estrada said. “I don’t want to miss any starts. I think I’ll be ready. I don’t know where my pitch count’s going to be. The first two or three times out I might not be at 100 yet, but if I can just get out there and give the guys some innings, that’s all I really care about and I think I’ll be there.”

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Toronto does have the benefit of two off days early in the season, so as long as Estrada is healthy, it may be OK if his arm is not fully stretched out and ready for 100+ pitches. It could also give the Blue Jays the option to skip him once through the rotation.

“The more I threw the looser it got,” he said. “I don’t think the back’s going to be an issue anymore. It’s now just getting the feel for every pitch.”

If Estrada still does need to miss any significant time, the Blue Jays have left themselves fairly prepared.

One of Gavin Floyd or Jesse Chavez could easily make one or two starts before sliding back into a bullpen role early on. There is also the option of someone like Drew Hutchison, who could open the year with Toronto then return to triple-A Buffalo.

In his first year with the Blue Jays, Estrada quickly moved into the rotation where he made 28 starts. Including the playoffs, where the veteran right-hander pitched excellently, he threw 200.1 innings.