Around this time last year Marco Estrada was experimenting with a new core exercise in the gym when he injured his back.
The ailment lingered throughout the season, forcing the Toronto Blue Jays right-hander to constantly pitch through pain and eventually miss the All-Star Game due to a stint on the disabled list.
As this year’s spring training approaches, though, Estrada says that injury has progressed considerably.
“My back is doing much better. Even on my worst days it’s nowhere near where it was last season,” Estrada told Andrew Walker on Sportsnet 590 The FAN Wednesday afternoon. “Once I get into spring training and have our physicians there … they know exactly what to do with me. I can only imagine I’ll feel even better once I get to work with them. I’m excited about all this.”
Estrada, who was born in Sonora, Mexico, but grew up in California, said he’s spoken to representatives from Team Mexico about playing in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. He doesn’t want to pitch in the opening round but could suit up for his birth nation later in the tournament. It all depends on his arm.
“I just have to wait and see how I feel,” he said. “But we never really talked about my back. It was more so my arm. I’ve just got to make sure it’s ready to go.”
The improved health of his back is good news for Estrada, who was 9-9 with a 3.48 ERA in 29 starts last season. The injury, reportedly a herniated disk, flared up several times in 2016, most notably during Estrada’s final start before the All-Star break.
He allowed three runs on five hits with seven strikeouts to earn a no-decision in the 9-6 loss to the Cleveland Indians, but he was in visible pain throughout the outing, repeatedly bending over, hands over knees.
“I don’t even know how I got through five innings but that was one of my favourite games that I ever pitched in,” said Estrada.
Shortly after the start he was placed on the DL by the team, a move that he protested but ultimately says was the right call.
“Even when I came back I probably wasn’t 100 per cent,” he adds. “But it was OK. I know things got a little rough there but as the season went on I got better and pitched much better.
“Hopefully I keep that going.”
David Singh, sportsnet.ca | Photo: thestar.com
We hope Marco has a fantastic year! ~ Dusty Fields SMM