The Blue Jays’ Marco Estrada has been pitching with a herniated disk in his back according to a report from Jon Morosi.
Earlier this season, Estrada was sidelined with a back issue as well—then publicly described as ‘inflammation.’ The Blue Jays placed Estrada on the disabled list just before the All-Star Game and, instead of playing in the game fans voted him into, he rested and rehabilitated his back. It now seems like that was a larger issue though that he has spent the last two months playing through:
Marco Estrada pitching with herniated disk in his back; explains ~ 5-1/3 IP per start since All-Star break, compared with ~ 6-2/3 IP before.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) September 15, 2016
Estrada spent a total of twenty days in between starts in July during the All-Star break. Since then, Estrada has had a few starts pushed back by a couple days, but has still made ten starts—roughly one or two shy of the league norm.
Through the first half of the season, Estrada managed 104.1 innings pitched with a WHIP of 0.99. Since the All-Star game, Estrada has pitched 52.2 innings and has a WHIP of 1.48. His BABIP has increased, his strand rate has decreased, and opponents are getting on-base and slugging much better against him.
All of this is coming at a relatively dire time for the floundering Blue Jays. Since the All-Star break, the Blue Jays have gone 28-26 to stay in contention but just narrowly. The Red Sox sit two games above them in the division lead and the division-rival Orioles sit just one game above them in the first Wild Card spot.
The Blue Jays have been limiting the workload of pitchers down the stretch, working with a six-man rotation at times mostly to accommodate Aaron Sanchez’s innings limit. However, if this injury does in fact exist, it gave the team another reason to try and limit innings more evenly among starters.
With very few options in the minors, the only reinforcement that the Blue Jays had available was Francisco Liriano, who has filled in admirably as a swingman since being acquired at the trade deadline from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The 33-year old Estrada is coming off a bit of a Renaissance season. His production earned him a two-year deal worth $26 million with the Blue Jays just prior to reaching free agency this past offseason. The right-hander has been worth $19.5 million this season according to FanGraphs’ $/WAR estimations.