Shaky first start just part of process for Estrada

Blue Jays righty allows five runs (four earned) in first outing as member of rotation

Shaky first start just part of process for Estrada

TORONTO -- Marco Estrada is going to be a work in progress over the next week or two as he begins transitioning to the starting rotation after spending the first month in the bullpen.

Estrada made his first start of the year in Tuesday's 6-3 loss to the Yankees and he -- more or less -- performed as expected. He wasn't dominant by any means, but he did enough to keep Toronto in the game while also starting the process of getting stretched out.

The 31-year-old survived a 27-pitch first and managed to get through 4 2/3 innings against a patient Yankees lineup. His line -- five runs (four earned) -- doesn't look good on paper, but it was relatively solid until Mark Teixeira went deep on the final pitch Estrada threw.

"You have to just go out and make your pitches," said Estrada, who also gave up a two-run double to Alex Rodriguez and an RBI single to Jacoby Ellsbury. "I think I'm going to be okay. I threw [79] pitches. Yeah, maybe I fatigued a little bit, but other than that, I felt pretty good.

"The only way you're going to build up your pitch count is by throwing the pitches. I'm glad they gave me the opportunity to get up to at least 75. This next time out, hopefully it goes up, and I think I'll be ready for it."

Estrada primarily became a two-pitch pitcher -- fastball and changeup -- out of the bullpen, and that will have to change in the rotation. He uses his curveball a lot more as a starter, and he also has been working on a cutter in an attempt to give hitters different looks as he goes through a batting order multiple times.

The other important thing Estrada has to do over the next couple of weeks is build up his endurance, and Tuesday created a good base to work from. In a few outings, Estrada ideally will be at full strength, but it's a process that's more physically challenging this year because he didn't have much of a Spring Training.

Estrada missed a large portion of camp because of a sprained ankle, and while the plan was for him to prepare for the year as a starter, that never really happened.

"Not being able to build up on your pitch count, that obviously hurt me, and unfortunately I have to do it now," Estrada said. "I have to do it during the season. ... I've been feeling pretty good. I felt pretty good out of the 'pen, I've thrown multiple innings, I got up to 50 pitches out of the 'pen. Yeah, I didn't have that time in Spring Training to build up, but I feel pretty good and have to just keep building up that pitch count."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.