Blue Jays’ Estrada won’t return until after all-star break

BOSTON — Despite taking positive steps during a bullpen session Wednesday, Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada will not pitch again until after the all-star break as he continues to recover from a left groin strain.

Estrada last pitched July 3 when the injury forced him out of a start vs. the New York Mets after facing only three batters. He said at the time that he first began experiencing the issue during a start against the Los Angeles Angels on June 22. He pitched through it his next time out — June 27 vs. Houston — and was reasonably effective, holding the Astros to three earned runs on seven hits over five innings. But when he took the mound against the Mets he found the injury too excruciating to weather.

Wednesday’s bullpen was his first time pitching off a mound since, and although Estrada felt he could get through a start if needed, the Blue Jays will err on the side of caution with the right-hander.

“He could’ve gone out there, but he’d probably labour through it,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “It just makes no sense if he’s not ready to go this close to the break. This way, when he comes out of it, it’s gone.”

Depending how the Blue Jays line up their rotation following the all-star break, the club could potentially push Estrada as far back as July 24, which would give him three full weeks between starts. If he started that day, he could return to pitch on July 30, the day before MLB’s non-waiver trade deadline.

That’s an important date. Estrada’s a pending free agent, and it’s expected the Blue Jays will try to move him prior to the deadline if he’s healthy and effective.

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