CLEVELAND -- The Blue Jays' starting rotation was supposed to be their biggest strength but instead has became their biggest liability, and the ripple effect is now being felt in the bullpen.Toronto's relief corps finished Friday's 13-3 loss having tossed the second-most innings in the American League. The consistently high
CLEVELAND -- The Blue Jays' starting rotation was supposed to be their biggest strength but instead has became their biggest liability, and the ripple effect is now being felt in the bullpen.
Toronto's relief corps finished Friday's 13-3 loss having tossed the second-most innings in the American League. The consistently high workload has led to a revolving-door roster and a manager in John Gibbons who frequently has his hands tied when determining who he can use and when.
Such was the case again in the series opener in Cleveland. Gibbons attempted to stick with starter Marco Estrada in the fifth inning for a little longer than usual simply because Toronto was running out of options. In the end, it didn't really matter as Estrada was roughed up for four runs in the frame.
It only got worse from there.
"Our bullpen is beat to hell," Gibbons said. "Certain guys needed to pitch tonight, certain guys couldn't. You're hoping for a big out, maybe a little ground ball, get a big strikeout, but that didn't happen and the floodgates opened."
Toronto's rotation has been a liability for most of the season but has struggled more lately. Blue Jays starters have a 5.45 ERA with a 1.93 WHIP and .312 opponents' batting average over 34 2/3 innings since the All-Star break. Estrada has gone more than five innings just once since June 6. Francisco Liriano didn't go more than two innings in either of his last two starts and Aaron Sanchez is still touch-and-go because of a blister that won't go away.
Marcus Stroman and J.A. Happ have been the stabilizing forces in a rotation that finished play on Friday with a 4.79 ERA and one of the lowest workloads in all of baseball. By comparison, last year Toronto's starting staff led the AL in almost every major category including ERA (3.64) and innings (995 1/3).
Estrada has been one of the main culprits. He led the club during the first two months of the season but is 0-5 with a 9.52 ERA since June. He entered the fifth inning with a 3-1 lead Friday, having thrown just 57 pitches, but things fell apart quickly.
"I just ran out of gas, plain and simple," Estrada said. "I felt great out there the first few innings. I was even excited about it because I felt like my pitches were much better than what they have been. Fifth inning came along, I don't know, I got tired. I couldn't get the ball down. I couldn't locate anymore and it all fell apart. Plain and simple."
The big question now is where the Blue Jays go from here. Estrada and Liriano have likely lowered their trade value and a replacement needs to be found for Sanchez, who is expected to be placed on the DL for the fourth time this year because of his blister issues.
Cesar Valdez is one option and Joe Biagini could be considered again but key prospects are still a year away. That means Estrada and Liriano likely will stay put whether or not things get better.
"I don't want to leave but if it happens, it happens," Estrada said of the trade talk. "I can't control that stuff. I'm not pitching good anyway. So we'll see."
Gregor Chisholm has covered
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