Yesterday, the Blue Jays made a number of announcements concerning the ALCS roster. The most noteworthy is that Marco Estrada will start Game 1 on Friday night. Beyond that, Devon Travis will be available for this series. So, too, will Francisco Liriano. Finally, Joaquin Benoit is still not fit enough to play.
Estrada Starts Game 1
The Jays had two realistic options for Game 1 on Friday. The first was Marcus Stroman, and Estrada was the second. The argument for Stroman was how strong he was in last week’s Wild Card. Furthermore, Friday would round out a 10-day break for him. Thanks to the sweep against Texas, Stroman has had an extended rest. With that in mind, he will likely get the ball on Saturday. Anything more would be excessive.
Estrada has earned his spot as the anchor of this playoff rotation. He has been excellent for the Jays in the postseason. Perhaps his most impressive start came in Game 1 of the ALDS, as he nearly pitched a complete game shutout. Estrada only faced Cleveland once this season, on July 2nd, during which he allowed three earned runs over 5.0 innings. It should be noted that this was around the time that his back issues started to flare up. Estrada has only faced Cleveland one other time in his career, and has never faced them at Progressive Field. Here is how he has fared against their roster. With the start in Game 1, Estrada will also be set up to pitch in Game 5, and could appear in relief for a possible Game 7.
The best news for the Jays is that Devon Travis should be ready to play on Friday. Going into Game 3 of the ALDS, it was not clear that Travis would even be able to stay on the roster. His return will add another potent bat to the lineup. Not to take anything away from Darwin Barney, but he doesn’t have nearly the same impact as Travis. Since Travis will be coming back from injury, he will likely bat 9th. That should suit the Jays just fine, as Ezequiel Carrera has been on a roll in the leadoff spot.
With Travis making his return, it will be interesting to see if the Jays elect to carry only one extra middle infielder for this series. They opted to only add Barney to the roster for the ALDS. That could have hurt them, especially in Game 3, when they were not able to pinch hit for Barney late in the game. Perhaps Scott Feldman could be optioned for Ryan Goins. The Jays still haven’t used Feldman since September 30th. Meanwhile, Goins would provide them some insurance in case Travis’ knee acts up again.
Liriano In, Benoit Out
The last piece of good news is that Francisco Liriano thinks he will be ready for Game 2. Per MLB’s new concussion rules for the postseason, that is the earliest that he can return to the roster. There is no telling how effective Liriano may be upon his return. That said, if he can perform the same way that he did in September (and during the Wild Card), then he will be extremely useful in the bullpen. In an ideal world, Liriano could take some of the big spots that would otherwise be reserved for Brett Cecil. The other advantage that Liriano provides is that he doesn’t depend on lefty-lefty matchups to succeed.
Not all of the injury news was good for the Jays. It was always a long shot for Joaquin Benoit to rejoin the team this series, but John Gibbons has confirmed that he has been ruled out. The Jays’ bullpen would have been much better suited to match Cleveland’s had Benoit been available. That Yankees brawl will be remembered as one of the lowlights of September.
So that should bring you up to speed. With the series opening only two days from now, expect to get some more roster news today and tomorrow. The first couple of starters might be announced at some point this afternoon, and the ALCS roster should be released tomorrow.