Stro­man wants to be the go-to guy in T.O.

Winnipeg Free Press - Section D - - BASEBALL - By Jeff Odom

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Mar­cus Stro­man is feel­ing bet­ter than ever.

With the an­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment in his left knee fully healed for nearly a year, the hard-throw­ing righty has set high ex­pec­ta­tions for him­self go­ing into the new sea­son.

Stro­man doesn’t want to merely be a part of a ro­ta­tion help­ing Toronto de­fend its first AL East ti­tle in 22 years — he’s de­ter­mined to lead it.

“I want to be that guy,” he said. “That’s why I put in all that work in the off-sea­son. Ev­ery­thing I did was to be the ace and, hope­fully, I have that op­por­tu­nity to be the ace and I can kind of run with it.”

With for­mer ace and 2012 AL Cy Young win­ner David Price’s off-sea­son de­par­ture to the Bos­ton Red Sox, the chances are good for Stro­man to fill the void.

De­spite miss­ing the first five months last sea­son af­ter in­jur­ing his knee in a freak ac­ci­dent dur­ing field­ing prac­tice in March, Stro­man re­turned for four starts in Septem­ber, go­ing 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA.

Stro­man also started Toronto’s mem­o­rable come­from-be­hind tri­umph over the Texas Rangers in the de­cid­ing Game 5 of the AL Divi­sion Se­ries, then earned the win in Game 3 against the Kansas City Roy­als in the AL Cham­pi­onship Se­ries.

Even when Stro­man wasn’t able to walk, the 24-year-old said he still main­tained a con­sis­tent throw­ing sched­ule through­out the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion process. He worked with train­ers dur­ing the sum­mer at Duke Univer­sity, where he was drafted 22nd over­all by Toronto as

‘That’s why I put in all that work in the off-sea­son’

a ju­nior in 2012, and com­pleted course­work to fin­ish his de­gree in so­ci­ol­ogy.

“My body is in the best po­si­tion that it’s ever been,” Stro­man said. “I’m ex­cited, man. It’s go­ing to be hard for this next month, be­cause I’m kind of itch­ing to get at the bit, be­ing that I didn’t play all last year.”

Man­ager John Gib­bons be­lieves his young pitcher is equipped with the nec­es­sary tools to be atop the ro­ta­tion for the fore­see­able fu­ture. Stro­man is sched­uled to start Toronto’s ex­hi­bi­tion opener Wed­nes­day against Philadel­phia.

It all starts with his arm, Gib­bons said.

“That (mo­ti­va­tion and his con­fi­dence) def­i­nitely helps make him good, but he’s not go­ing out there naked, ei­ther,” he quipped. “He re­ally has a dy­na­mite arm. He’s an en­er­gizer. And he’s off to a pretty good start in a young ca­reer, at this point.”

If his name is pen­cilled in to start Toronto’s opener April 3 at Tampa Bay, Stro­man hopes it will be just the be­gin­ning of some­thing spe­cial.

“Ev­ery­one here is mo­ti­vated,” he said. “Ev­ery­one knows what we’re ca­pa­ble of.”

FR ANK GUNN / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Blue Jays star ter Mar­cus Stro­man is

keen to make up for lost time.

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