DUNEDIN, Fla. — The Toronto Blue Jays will send Marco Estrada to the mound when they open their Major League Baseball season April 3 at Baltimore.
The Blue Jays announced their starting rotation Sunday, and if it can remain healthy it could be a formidable force in the American League. Following Estrada are J.A. Happ, Marcus Stroman, Francisco Liriano and rising star Aaron Sanchez.
Estrada went 9-9 last tear with a 3.48 earned-run average, numbers that were down from his breakout 2015 season. But he rebounded strong in the playoffs. While he had a 1-2 post-season record, he had a 2.01 earned-run average with 19 strikeouts over 22 1/3 innings.
Happ had the strongest year of his career last year posting 20 wins, 12 more than the lefty's previous high. Stroman started for the United States in its victory over Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic final, winning tournament MVP honours.
Liriano provided a reliable left-handed arm last season and has been dynamite this spring with a 1-1 record, 1.88 ERA and 25 strikeouts over 14 1/3 innings.
Sanchez has struggled this spring, but expectations are high that he will continue to emerge into a staff ace. He went 15-2 with a 3.00 ERA and 161 strikeouts last season, his first as a full-time starter.
Liriano continued his strong spring on Sunday, striking out seven and allowing two hits and one run over 4 2/3 innings as a Blue Jays split squad dropped a 2-1 decision to Baltimore in Dunedin. Cedric Mullins scored the winning run for Baltimore with a sacrifice fly in the top of the eighth.
Toronto's lone run came in the bottom of the first when Melvin Upton Jr. scored on a Jarrod Saltalamacchia groundout.
Another Jays split squad earned a 4-3 win against Detroit in Lakeland, Fla., behind five innings from starter Casey Lawrence, who allowed six hits and two earned runs while striking out three.
Alex Monsalve and Christian Lopes hit solo home runs in the top of the ninth for Toronto to go up 4-2. A Steven Moya soft grounder off Jeff Beliveau scored a run in the bottom of the ninth, but Brad Allen came in to record the final out and pick up the save for Toronto.
Ryan McBroom also had a solo shot for the Jays.
The Canadian Press