A's expecting Marco Estrada to pitch near top end of starting rotation


Marco Estrada is coming off the worst season of his career. The 35-year-old right-hander went 7-14 with a 5.64 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in 28 starts for the Blue Jays.

So why on earth would the A's sign him to a one-year, $4 million contract?

"He's a guy who was an All-Star in 2016," general manager David Forst explained. "He pitched great for a couple of years in Toronto and then last year pitched through some back and hip issues and lost a little bit of velocity. But his command is as outstanding as ever. His changeup has always been one of the best pitches in the league. He's a guy we fully expect to bounce back and be near the top of our rotation for 2019."

Added manager Bob Melvin: "I think a lot of (last year's struggles) had to do with some issues with his back. He was going out there and I think pitching not healthy. He's got such a good changeup and off-speed arsenal. He's a veteran guy who's going to be good for us."

Whatever back issues Estrada may have had last season appear to be resolved. Said Forst, "We've seen his workouts the last couple of weeks. He says he feels great."

As Forst noted, Estrada has had plenty of success in the not too distant past. In his 2016 All-Star campaign, he posted a 3.48 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. He was even better in 2015, finishing with a career-best 3.13 ERA and 1.04 WHIP.

"I think whenever you have a guy with a down year and some injuries, he's looking to bounce back," Melvin said. "I know he's excited. I talked to him today. He's excited about the team. He saw us from afar and loves the clubhouse, loves the guys. There are certain guys you have a little bit more faith in bouncing back. He is one of those guys."

Added Forst: "He's a guy who's done it in the past. I think as we look at our rotation and all the candidates, the idea was for those guys to go out there and be five, six-plus inning guys. I know there's a lot of talk about how teams are going to use their starters and use openers and whatever. But everyone is shooting to have five starters out there who can give you innings. I don't think we're going to put any limits on Marco."

Forst expects Estrada and Mike Fiers to anchor the top end of Oakland's starting rotation, at least to begin the season.

[RELATED: Fiers was strong in 2018, expect the same for this season]

"I think they're the most known commodities," he said. "I would think with (Estrada's) track record and Fiers' track record, there's no reason those guys can't be traditional starters."

Daniel Mengden, Frankie Montas, Paul Blackburn, and Chris Bassitt will likely battle for the other three spots in the rotation, though 21-year-old Jesús Luzardo will get a long look as well. The A's could also still add another starter in free agency

"I think we're still out there looking for both starting pitching and maybe a left-handed reliever," Forst said. "We're only a couple of weeks away from reporting now, so it's hard to say that we'd necessarily get something done. But obviously there are a lot of free agents left out there and there are still a lot of conversations going on."

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