Blue Jays’ Estrada set to have MRI Sunday, could miss next start

Josh Donaldson hit a tying solo shot in the seventh, Michael Saunders added a two-run double and the Blue Jays beat the Indians 9-6 on Saturday.

TORONTO – Marco Estrada’s next scheduled start for the Toronto Blue Jays is in doubt as the right-hander had an MRI planned Sunday to chart a course for his troubled back.

Estrada laboured through five innings of three-run ball in Saturday’s 9-6 win over the Cleveland Indians despite pain so bad that he put on a back brace between the first and second innings as a way to remain on the mound.

Asked how his back was Sunday morning, he replied "terrible," and when Thursday’s outing against the Detroit Tigers was brought up, he said it would "probably" be wise to miss the turn.

"I don’t want to, but if missing one start means I’m going to be healthy the rest of the year, then it’s probably the smarter thing to do, I guess," he said. "I don’t know, it’s something we have to talk about and obviously I’m going to see how I feel after today. Right now, if I had to pitch with what I did yesterday, there’s no way I can do it again."

The troubles in Estrada’s lower back – the primary trouble spot is around his sacroiliac joints, although he’s also had a bulging disc for a while, too – flared up June 15 against the Philadelphia Phillies when he took a few swings at the plate in a 7-2 win. He’s made three starts since then, but his back got progressively worse, culminating in Saturday’s difficult outing.

"I wouldn’t have pitched if the circumstances were a little different, but we had that 19-inning game, we needed some innings from somebody," said Estrada, referring to the 2-1 loss Friday to Cleveland that left the bullpen badly depleted. "I felt it during (the Phillies) game, but it hasn’t been terrible, it’s been something I’ve been able to deal with. I feel it while I’m getting loose, then once I warm up it kind of goes away, and then once the game gets going, the later it gets the more it starts to lock up again. It hasn’t been bad. (Saturday) it was the entire game. It just hurt."

The pain, Estrada said, "feels exactly the same," as it did during the spring, when he arrived at camp having aggravated his back doing a core exercise known as dragon flag made famous by martial arts legend Bruce Lee. A cortisone shot at the time "kind of got me over the hump" and he was hoping the current MRI will reveal nothing new and another injection will again turn the trick.

"We need to make sure exactly what it is again, hopefully it’s not too serious, because I think something as simple as a cortisone shot might help me out a lot," he said. "We’ll wait and see what the results are and go from there."

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