Estrada, Norris, Sanchez fight for 2 spots

 * Marco Estrada, Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez will battle for the final two spots in the Blue Jays rotation with Marcus Stroman out for the year. ....  

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By Bob Elliott

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. _ Three arms for two spots.

Easy. Piece of cake, right?

Let’s look at each option for the Blue Jays who have Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Norris and Marco Estrada, roughed up for seven runs Thursday, vying for the final two rotation starts.

They’ll battle for spots behind R. A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, impressive Thursday with 3 1/3 scoreless against the Tampa Bay Rays, and Drew Hutchison.

We’re going in alphabetical order


Marco Estrada, 31. marco estradda

This spring: 0-1, 15.42 in three games, one walk, two strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings.

Starts in majors: 71, 22-20, 4.20, 154 games.

Career starts: 174.

Career MLB numbers: 23-26, 4.23.

Drafted: Sixth round (174th over-all), 2005 by Washington Nationals.

Experience: Five years, 35 days

Pros: Averaged 34 walks in 139 innings the last three years with the Milwaukee Brewers making 21 starts per season.

Cons: Led the majors allowing 29 home runs in 150 2/3 innings, one more than Hector Noesi (172 1/3), two more than Dan Haren (186) and Jered Weaver (213 1/3).

Scout says: “He doesn’t walk many, but gives up a ton of homers. This could be a perfect spot for him ... let him make six or seven starts, let the kids get their legs under them. He’d be a good swing man ... best case for the Jays would be to use him like they used to use David Wells or John Cerutti ... no where in Wells’ league.”

Scout II says before the game: “He gave up a bushel baskets of home runs with Milwaukee. He hardly walks anyone so when he gives them up there’s not a lot of damage. David Price led the majors pitching 248 1/3 innings and allowed 25 homers. This guy allowed four more in 150 fewer innings.”


Daniel Norris daniel norris This spring: 0-0, 7.36 in two games, two walks, five strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings.

Starts in majors: 1, 0-0, 5.40.

Career starts: 61.

Career MLB numbers: 0-0, 5.40, five games.

Drafted: Second round (74th), 2011.

Experience: 29 days.

Pros: Big-time prospect, ranked 18th on top 100 prospects list by the highly-respected Baseball America.

Cons: Inexperience.

Scout says: “I read where he was living in a van ... read it about 10 times. And how he’s a surfer and a rock climber. He might want to lose those hobbies if he’s going to be a success in this game ... all the money that’s out there.”

Scout II says: “I like Sanchez better, but I am in the minority ... most think Norris will have the better career.”


Aaron Sanchez This spring: 0-1, 4.15 in two games, two walks, three strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings.

Starts in majors: 0.

Career starts: 77.

Career MLB numbers: 2-2, 1.09, three saves, 24 games.

Drafted: First round (34th) in 2010.

Experience: 69 days.

Pros: Was dominant as a set-up up man for Casey Jannsen last year. Ranked 27th on Baseball America’s top 100.

Cons: Was a success for one or two inning at a time ... can he do it for six or seven?

Scout says: “He didn’t have fastball command when I saw him at New Hampshire. At Buffalo in August he did. Erik Kratz did a good job making sure he kept the ball down. I mean he was down, down, down, rather than trying to throw four-seamers past everyone. Not gonna work.”

Scout says II: “He made major leaguers look silly with one pitch last year. He arm is electric. They have some tough decisions. Put him in the pen? Trade for Jonathan Papelbon who wants to be with pal (bench coach) DeMarlo Hale from their Boston days? Go with Sanchez as a starter.”


So there are four scenarios as long as everyone stays healthy:

Best case: All three pitch well the rest of the spring. The Jays have been fooled in past springs by quick starts by the likes of starters Brett Cecil, Marc Rzepczynski and Brad Mills. They’ll evaluate until the end of the month.

If all three pitch well they could use Sanchez to help out in the bullpen unless that works itself out.

Middle ground I: Two perform well. The other goes to the bullpen.

Middle ground II: One performs well enough to make the starting five. Hello, Liam Hendriks,

Worst case: All three struggle the final 22 games in Florida and Montreal. Then, it’s get out the white flag.