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Estrada reveals reason behind midseason funk

Blue Jays hurler struggled over 10-start stretch in June, July last year
MLB.com @jonmorosi

The contrast within Marco Estrada's 2017 season was striking.

Estrada maintained a 3.15 ERA through April and May -- the sort of performance the Blue Jays expected from a reliable starter who earned his first All-Star selection the year before.

The contrast within Marco Estrada's 2017 season was striking.

Estrada maintained a 3.15 ERA through April and May -- the sort of performance the Blue Jays expected from a reliable starter who earned his first All-Star selection the year before.

Then Estrada's season went awry, as trade speculation swirled around the disappointing Jays. Over his next 10 starts, Estrada's ERA was 8.87. He uncharacteristically walked 33 batters in 45 2/3 innings.

Estrada regained his usual form almost immediately after the non-waiver Trade Deadline passed without Toronto dealing him away. He pitched against the White Sox on the night of July 31 -- mere hours after the Deadline -- and produced his best start in more than two months: seven innings and one earned run.

Video: TOR@CWS: Estrada fans five over seven stellar frames

Estrada closed the season with a 3.68 ERA in five September starts, and the Blue Jays rewarded him with a one-year, $13 million contract extension.

So, what happened?

"Honestly, I haven't talked about this ... but I basically started sleeping," Estrada said of his strong finish during an interview Tuesday on MLB Network Radio's "Inside Pitch."

"I was having issues with sleeping -- stressing out, stressing about being traded and a few little things. I'd been struggling. It all kind of snowballed together. I stopped sleeping. But once I knocked all that stuff out, I was able to get back on track.

"Honestly, I don't think I did anything different. I was just rested. When you don't sleep -- at least for me -- it would feel like I'm out there spinning on the mound. It made things a little difficult. The team knew about this. They knew once I would get rid of all [the] issues with sleeping that I would be just fine. And it's exactly what happened."

Estrada credited his family, friends and a psychiatrist with whom he worked for helping him through the difficult period. "I've thanked them a million times," Estrada said.

Estrada was candid Tuesday in identifying what led to his difficulty with sleeping: stress, magnified by the uncertainty of the Trade Deadline.

"It's one of those things I didn't even want to bring up, but the season's over and I feel like I can talk about it now," he said. "It was just stress. I've never really been through something like this, but it happened to me. I didn't even think it was possible, to be honest with you.

"Obviously it happened and I struggled with it, but once I got things taken care of and my mindset was in the right place, I was able to finally sleep. It shows the difference of the type of pitcher I was from June-July to August-September. It made a big difference, being able to sleep."

Estrada said he "tried everything" to help him sleep in June and July.

"I was told to maybe think of a song, put it in your head, kind of just sing that," he said. "You can count. There's a lot of things. ... For me, I think the biggest thing was just trying to clear my mind and stop worrying so much. It's easier said than done.

"Thankfully, I had a lot of support. I had my friends, my family. I was able to speak to psychiatrists there. All of that combined -- just talking to people, letting it out, that was actually the biggest thing that helped me."

Jon Paul Morosi is a reporter for MLB.com and MLB Network. He is a contributor to MLB Network Radio and conducted Tuesday's interview with Estrada alongside co-host Ryan Spilborghs on "Inside Pitch."

Toronto Blue Jays, Marco Estrada