Photo Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports
The Blue Jays don’t play again until Friday in Cleveland, when they begin the ALCS, and according to John Gibbons it will be Marco Estrada taking the ball for the club. So… that’s something.
Estrada has been fantastic every time he’s been called upon in the playoffs, both last year and in his one start in the Texas series. Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs immortalized that most recent performance in an outstanding piece looking at the worst swings the Rangers offered on a day filled with ugliness from Texas hitters, thanks to Marco’s dynamite change-up.
Part of the reasoning here is that Estrada, despite nursing a back injury that probably benefited from extra time off, noticeably struggled when the club moved to a six-man rotation late in the season. Gibbons told reporters that going to Estrada in Game One keeps him as close as possible to regular rest.
Part of the planning seems to have been that the club is still trying to limit Aaron Sanchez’s innings a little bit. Gibbons suggested Sanchez will likely only start once in the series, at the “tail end” of the first four games — i.e. in either Game Three or Game Four. Sanchez could have pitched on regular rest in Game One, then been available again later in the series, and if he had been a little bit sharper in Game Three against Texas, maybe there would have been louder calls to see him multiple times in the series — though he could still become a bullpen option later on, as well, if the club gets desperate.
We’re not quite sure how the club’s bullpen will look going into this series just yet, as Gibbons says much depends on the status of Francisco Liriano. The left-hander is out with a concussion at the moment, and hasn’t pitched since leaving the field in Arlington on Friday. Would the Jays actually consider going back to him for a Game Three or Four start on 10 or 11 days rest? Probably not, I guess, though I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing a second left-handed starters face a Cleveland lineup that is tough from both sides of the plate, but has a little less firepower from the right side.
Seeing Marcus Stroman in the bullpen — something he could do right from the jump in Game One (unlike Liriano, who is required to be off 7 days due to MLB’s concussion protocol) — has some benefit, too, but Liriano can also be useful out of the bullpen, so… I dunno. It’s all good.
Meanwhile, it sounds as though Devon Travis will be on the roster for the ALCS. Or, at least, Gibbons tells reporters that it’s “moving in that direction.” The second-baseman’s knee is feeling “much better” today, which is obviously good news. Travis, for his part, says he expects to play in Game One. I suppose that means Ryan Goins could end up on the active roster, just in case, meaning that the club may go with fourteen position players and eleven pitchers, but Gibbons says that’s still up in the air (and dependent on Liriano’s status). Another possibility is finding room for Dalton Pompey on the roster, and adding his speed on the bases as a weapon — something the club opted against in their series against Texas.
All of that sounds pretty good! There is one bit of bad news, though, and it’s that Joaquin Benoit — despite reports early on that he might only need a couple weeks off — will not be on the Jays’ ALCS roster, as he deals with the knee injury he picked up running in from the bullpen during that stupid brawl against the Yankees. Benoit’s season seems as though it’s probably done, which… is less than ideal.
Hard not to like talking about ALCS roster, though, amiright???