Estrada aims to bounce back next season

September 28th, 2017

BOSTON -- It was a tale of three seasons for . Two of them were really good, and the third was a living nightmare that almost overshadowed everything else.

Estrada's roller-coaster year came to an end on Wednesday night after he allowed eight runs (seven earned) on nine hits and a walk in a 10-7 loss to the Red Sox. It was a rather fitting end to a frustrating season that began with such promise but fizzled out midway through the summer.

Through the first two months, Estrada was one of the best pitchers in the American League with a 3.15 ERA over 11 starts. The next nine outings were a borderline disaster with a 9.52 ERA, but just when it looked like all hope had been lost, he finished strong by going 6-1 with a 3.51 ERA before Wednesday's sour start. It was a tough year to figure out.

"Overall, I know my numbers aren't great," said Estrada, who finishes 10-9 with a 4.98 ERA. "If you take away a month and a half of the year, things went pretty well for me. I struggled bad in June and some of July, and it kind of ruined everything numbers-wise, I guess. Obviously I want to pitch better than that. I want to be good the entire year."

The good news for Estrada is that there were no signs of the back issues which plagued him each of the past two seasons. Then there's also the fact that Estrada believes a lot of his issues in June and July were related to a personal situation away from the field and not mechanical problems that would normally explain such a poor stretch.

When everything is factored in, it's not a stretch to believe that Estrada can bounce back next year and experience a return to form. He was one of Toronto's most reliable arms from 2015-16 and the club's go-to pitcher during each of its runs to the AL Championship Series. There's a reason why the Blue Jays and Estrada both decided to forgo exploring options in free agency and instead sign a one-year extension worth $13 million.

"The trainers here gave me a really good routine to follow," Estrada said. "Their workouts really helped me out. I felt [my back] once in awhile but it didn't really affect me at all this year to be honest with you.

"I had other issues going on, and once I got rid of those issues, stopped thinking and cleared my head, I performed a lot better. It's just unfortunate how bad I pitched in June and July. It kind of ruined everything, but physically, I feel good and I'll get ready for the offseason, train really hard like I always do and be ready for next season."

If there's one major cause for concern it might be found in Estrada's changeup. Last year, opponents hit .162 with a .304 slugging percentage against the pitch. This season, opponents entered play on Wednesday hitting .240 with a .468 slugging percentage.

Estrada believes a lot of those issues came during his troublesome summer, and Blue Jays manager John Gibbons also doesn't believe any major changes need to be made. If they're right, his numbers should return to status quo next year. If not, there could be problems.

"He's a veteran pitcher, he's been doing it for awhile, there's only so much you can do," Gibbons said. "This is what he's got. The nights that he's on, he's really tough. And if he's off a little bit, he's going to give up some home runs because he's a fly ball guy. You can't re-invent anything. It's really just rest, get strong, come back ready to go and he should be fine."