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Stroman improving, but ruled out for OD

Right-hander could still pitch in opening series vs. Yankees
MLB.com @gregorMLB

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays had every intention of naming Marcus Stroman their Opening Day starter. Not anymore.

Stroman has been officially ruled out for Toronto's first game of the season because of right shoulder inflammation. The Blue Jays have yet to announce their plans for Opening Day, but either Marco Estrada or J.A. Happ is expected to get the call.

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DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays had every intention of naming Marcus Stroman their Opening Day starter. Not anymore.

Stroman has been officially ruled out for Toronto's first game of the season because of right shoulder inflammation. The Blue Jays have yet to announce their plans for Opening Day, but either Marco Estrada or J.A. Happ is expected to get the call.

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There's still a chance that Stroman will pitch later in the week, but he won't be on the mound March 29 vs. the Yankees. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons admitted his star right-hander was not pleased with Toronto's decision but said the club intends to take a cautious approach with his situation.

"We'll see how everything develops, we'll slot him in as soon as we can," Gibbons said of Stroman, who did not speak to the media on Monday but said he would later in the week. "My best judgment is that makes no sense at this time because we want him healthy the whole year. He doesn't like that. I get that. But I think it's best for him and best for the team."

Stroman appears to have completely recovered from the shoulder issue that plagued him early in camp. He started playing catch last week and threw a bullpen session off the mound on Monday morning. The native of New York is expected to throw another bullpen session later in the week and then two simulated innings vs. Minor Leaguers or an exhibition game against the Canadian Junior National Team on Saturday.

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That's all positive news for the Blue Jays, but it doesn't change the fact that Stroman doesn't have a lot of time left before the start of the season. After Saturday's outing, Stroman has two spring starts remaining -- and even that timeline seems a bit aggressive. Opening Day was always going to be almost impossible, even if Stroman clung to that hope until Monday's meeting with the coaching staff.

The Blue Jays haven't ruled anything out beyond the first game of the season, but if Stroman does require more time at the end of camp then right-hander Joe Biagini would temporarily enter the starting rotation.

"We're not sure yet," Gibbons said of Stroman's first outing. "He could still pitch in that Yankees series. We're just trying to buy him enough time. Shoulder really is no big deal, but my experience in this game says, 'You know what? Sometimes it's better to be smart than stupid.'"

Toronto has been keeping a close eye on right-hander Aaron Sanchez this spring after he missed almost the entire 2017 season because of blister issues. That's one of the main reasons he's expected to be pushed to the back end of the Blue Jays' rotation, which leaves Happ and Estrada as the favorites for Opening Day.

Estrada was the Opening Day starter a year ago, but he struggled with some mechanical issues during the season and finished with a 4.98 ERA. Happ was a 20-game winner two years ago and is coming off a season in which he posted a 3.53 ERA. New York's lineup features Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez and should be extremely tough on lefties. But with a four-game series, Happ will be used at some point; the only question is when.

"We'll see," Gibbons said. "We can go with any of them and feel good about it."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays, Marcus Stroman