DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Marco Estrada was optimistic he would be ready for the start of the regular season, but in the end he ran out of time during his recovery from a back injury suffered earlier this spring.
Estrada will begin the season on the 15-day disabled list, but the stint isn't expected to last long. The veteran righty is tentatively scheduled to make his season debut on April 10 against the Red Sox in Toronto.
The 32-year-old is still in the process of getting properly stretched out. He started a Minor League game on Wednesday and allowed three runs over 4 2/3 innings while throwing 74 pitches. The plan is for Estrada to pitch in one more Minor League game before heading north for the start vs. Boston.
"It's not what I wanted, obviously," Estrada admitted. "I thought they were asking me and I told them, 'If you're asking me, I want to pitch.' They thought it was the smarter thing to do, to take one [start] off and throw down here, get a little better. Which, it is the right thing to do, because I know I'm not at 100 percent yet. It's getting really close."
The decision to open the season without Estrada was an easy one to make, because the Blue Jays do not need a fifth starter until the second week. An off-day follows the opening four-game series at Tampa Bay, which means the club can instead carry an extra reliever on the roster.
During each of his last two starts, Estrada admitted the back was still a bit of an issue, and he had difficulty getting loose at the start the outings. It was a different story on the Minor League side as Estrada appeared much more comfortable on the mound and seemed to have better command of his fastball.
The outing still wasn't perfect, though, as Estrada allowed a pair of home runs in the second inning. Each of the home runs came on pitches that were left up in the zone, but that also shouldn't be surprising considering the lack of work Estrada had this spring. The hope is that one more outing is all he will need to work out the kinks.
"Stamina wise, I'm there," Estrada said. "I felt good today, felt like I could have kept going. It's not a matter of the stamina because that's there already. Now it's just feeling a little bit better out there and making quality pitches."
• R.A. Dickey also got a start in a Minor League game on Wednesday morning and tossed three scoreless innings while allowing one hit and a hit batter. The knuckleballer struck out four and threw 64 pitches in his final tune-up before the start of the regular season.
Dickey is scheduled to pitch the second game of the year, which takes place Monday night at Tropicana Field. The goal this season is to avoid the slow starts which have plagued him during each of the past two years. Dickey says the way he has felt physically this spring should go a long way in helping to reverse course.
"I think the thing that I'm most encouraged by is how good I feel at this point," Dickey said. "I'm not having to labor to get to the velocities that I need, and my recovery has been great. I'll start, throw 100 pitches and feel very good the next day. I haven't had that feeling in quite some time. To me, that's a good starting point for a good season, feeling like you're prepared and equipped to handle the rigors of 162 games."
• Edwin Encarnacion was originally scheduled to appear in a Minor League game on Wednesday, as well, but instead he received a day off. According to the veteran slugger, he did not suffer any kind of setback with his oblique injury, and he has every intention of playing later this week.
The tentative plan is for Encarnacion to play first base in two Minor League games before Sunday's Opening Day. Encarnacion did not appear in an official spring game because of the strained oblique, but he debuted on the Minor League side on Monday.