Estrada settles down after giving up homer

Estrada settles down after giving up homer

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Blue Jays right-hander Marco Estrada said he was thinking too much during the first three innings of Friday's 7-5 victory against the Phillies at Spectrum Field.

And that was an odd spot for Estrada. Normally, he's at his best when not thinking at all.

"Just throw the ... thing,'' said Estrada, who generally had an outstanding outing against the Phillies, allowing just one hit in 3 2/3 innings.

That one hit?

"It was a big hit,'' Estrada said.

Kendrick blasts three-run homer

Phillies left fielder Howie Kendrick picked on a thigh-high changeup and drove a one-out, three-run homer deep into the left-field seats, nearly reaching the Frenchy's restaurant tiki hut, giving Philadelphia a 3-1 advantage in the third inning.

Estrada's response?

He bore down, retiring the last two batters of the third, then getting the first two batters of the fourth before being lifted after a 60-pitch outing.

"I didn't throw a good changeup [on Kendrick's homer], but I got a look at his swing,'' said Estrada, who has gone 22-17 with a 3.30 ERA during the past two seasons with the Blue Jays. "I got him out in front. He just barreled it. He reached out, got it and crushed it. He's a good hitter. Those things are going to happen. I'm more excited about how I ended.

"I'm leaving with positive thoughts. What I did in the last inning, it was a night and day difference. On that last strikeout [to Brock Stassi, the last batter Estrada faced], I mean, the guy wasn't even near it.''

Estrada is known for his filthy stuff, including a changeup that is downright baffling. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, in his first season with the Blue Jays, said he likes what he has seen so far.

"He's a guy who can throw four pitches at any time for a strike,'' Saltalamacchia said. "When he's on, you're going to have a lot of fun. When he's not, it's going to be more of a battle.

"I know he's a guy who doesn't like to think. He doesn't want to do scouting reports. He just wants to go out there and pitch.''

Estrada said that's normally his foolproof approach. But for some reason on Friday, he couldn't get there, at least not initially. He anguished and second-guessed on every pitch.

"I was kind of fighting myself mentally,'' Estrada said. "I wanted to work on things. But instead of working on them, I was thinking about every single pitch I threw."

In the opening innings, when Estrada consistently fell behind hitters, it was not typical. Even Saltalamacchia, who is still getting to know Estrada, knew something wasn't right with the location of the pitches.

"He's a guy who's going to hit the glove, no matter where you put it,'' Saltalamacchia said. "So when he's not doing that, it makes you think, obviously. Everything is off of location. It doesn't matter if you throw 100 [mph] or 88-89. Location is key.''

For Estrada, so is mentality.

"It was mentally frustrating at times out there,'' Estrada said. "I feel like I've reached that hump. Now I can just go [in the remainder of his spring starts] and just let it go.

"I'm glad to have ended on a positive note mentally. Now I can move on to the next one and I'm excited for that.''

Joey Johnston is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Blue Jays on Friday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.