TORONTO — Marco Estrada has put the Toronto Blue Jays ahead of the American League all-stars.
Estrada was placed on the 15-day disabled list by the Blue Jays on Wednesday, ruling him out from the all-star game on July 12. He was named to the AL's team less than 24 hours before a sore back put him on the DL.
"I haven't had much sleep just knowing that there might be the possibility that I might not get to pitch in this game," said Estrada on the field of Rogers Centre, wearing a shirt supporting teammate Michael Saunders's all-star candidacy. "I guess my worst nightmare came true, unfortunately.
"But in the long run, this is the right thing to do. I think in the long run this is going to benefit me."
Estrada has struggled with a sore back all season that was re-aggravated by taking batting practice ahead of games in Philadelphia and Colorado, both National League ballparks. He had a cortisone injection in spring training and then again on Monday.
Despite the lingering soreness, Estrada is 5-3 with a 2.93 earned-run average, a 0.99 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) and 99 strikeouts in 16 games started. It would have been his first all-star game appearance. Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson and designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion were also named to the American League all-stars on Tuesday.
"We still have a lot of games left to play and I need to be healthy for (the Blue Jays)," said Estrada, who said his back wasn't great but improving and that he was limited to walking at this point in his rehabilitation. "So right now the best thing to do is take some time off and just enjoy (the all-star game). I'm still going to be a part of the all-star team.
"I'll be there supporting the guys and I'll just enjoy every minute of it."
Toronto manager John Gibbons said the move — retroactive to July 3 — was necessary with the Blue Jays in the midst of a pennant race in the American League East.
"We just thought it was best," Gibbons said. "He's feeling a little better, but we don't want to push it. We've got to worry about this team and it's nice that we've got the break coming up."
Estrada was due to start on Thursday, but right-hander Drew Hutchison will take his place. Gibbons also said that Estrada would not start Toronto's games in Arizona on July 19 and 20 to avoid a recurrence of the injury.
Asked who he'd want to replace him on the all-star roster, Estrada immediately nominated two Blue Jays teammates.
"Aaron Sanchez and J.A. Happ have done extremely well and I really hope it's one of them," said Estrada. "If I have to give up my spot I'd really like it to be one of my teammates. But obviously it's not up to me. We'll see what happens."
Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost, who as reigning American League champion gets to manage the all-star team, said Wednesday that there's a chance that Sanchez will get the nod.
"Just his great stuff and the way he attacks with a really good fastball, really good feel of his secondary stuff," said Yost, who added he'd already told Gibbons of the possibility that Sanchez would be his replacement choice. "He's definitely an all-star calibre type pitcher."
Saunders, from Victoria, still might join the American League all-stars as he was named to an online fan ballot to fill in the final roster spots. During pre-game warmups most of the Blue Jays were wearing shirts supporting "Captain Canada."
Saunders was leading the voting after Day 1 after racking up 4.8 million votes. The winner will be announced Friday.
Relief pitcher Bo Schultz was called up from triple-A Buffalo to replace Estrada on the Blue Jays roster. Schultz is not expected to be available for Wednesday night's game in Toronto against the Kansas City Royals.
Schultz hasn't earned a decision in 4 2/3 innings pitched for Toronto this season with a 3.86 ERA and five strikeouts.
Follow @jchidleyhill on Twitter
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press