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'Vintage Marco' shows up in spring debut

Blue Jays righty tosses two scoreless innings in relief against Rays
Special to MLB.com

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons had two words to describe Marco Estrada's first appearance of the spring against the Rays on Sunday: "Vintage Marco."

And it was. The right-hander entered in the fourth inning of Toronto's 5-3 loss at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium and tossed two scoreless frames. He allowed one hit -- a two-out single by Nick Franklin in the fifth -- and struck out one.

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons had two words to describe Marco Estrada's first appearance of the spring against the Rays on Sunday: "Vintage Marco."

And it was. The right-hander entered in the fourth inning of Toronto's 5-3 loss at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium and tossed two scoreless frames. He allowed one hit -- a two-out single by Nick Franklin in the fifth -- and struck out one.

Estrada, who is still dealing with some lingering effects of a back injury he sustained last season, threw three bullpen sessions to prepare, but he admitted it was "a little awkward" to be back on the mound in a game.

"I don't know what it is," Estrada said. "You've been pitching your entire life and you get out there again and you see the fans, it's just completely different. I know it's just Spring Training, but that's the way it is."

Video: TB@TOR: Estrada speaks on outing, adjustments

Estrada, 9-9 with a 3.48 ERA in 29 starts last season, said it's still too early to decide whether he will join Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. For now, it's about getting his body right for the regular season.

"I've got to be ready for the Blue Jays first," Estrada said. "If I do play in the Classic, I want to be 100 percent for that. I don't want to go in at 75 percent or whatever, because I want to pitch my best.

"I want to help them out, but also I have to make sure the Blue Jays come No. 1."

Worth noting

• Gibbons said he had no issues with third baseman Josh Donaldson and starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez departing camp for a short trip to Las Vegas on Saturday night for an Ultimate Fighting Championship event.

Donaldson, currently recovering from a strained right calf he sustained while running sprints at the start of camp, is friends with fighter Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson, who lost the UFC 209 welterweight match to Tyron Woodley.

Gibbons joked that he wished the two would have invited him to tag along.

"We had no problem with it," Gibbons said. "We knew they were going to be back. In Josh's case, I mean, we were going to let him do it anyway -- even if he wasn't injured. It was something that was important to him, and we talked a while back and, yeah, it's not interfering with anything else."

Rowdy Tellez, Toronto's No. 5 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, has yet to play above Double-A during his three-year professional career. But that doesn't mean the 21-year-old hasn't caught the attention of the big league staff.

Video: Top Prospects: Rowdy Tellez, 1B, Blue Jays

Gibbons said Tellez, a first baseman/designated hitter who slugged 23 homers with 81 RBIs in 124 games at New Hampshire this past season, has looked more mature and in better shape this season.

With a runner on second and two outs in the first against the Rays, Tellez made a lurching stop on a laser down the first-base line before scampering to the bag for the out, taking away a hit -- and a likely RBI -- from Brad Miller.

"Really, he's kind of picking up where he left off the last time we saw him," Gibbons said. "I can remember the first time we saw him; he came over here and hit a home run on the first pitch.

"He's highly touted in the organization, so he better be good."

Jeff Odom is a contributor to MLB.com.

Toronto Blue Jays, Marco Estrada