Marcus Stroman

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Marcus Earl Stroman

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Biographical Information[edit]

The cousin of minor leaguer Erskine Kelley, Marcus Stroman was selected by the Washington Nationals in the 18th round of the 2009 amateur draft. He did not sign and opted to attend Duke University instead, where he spent time as an infielder in addition to pitching. He was then chosen by the Toronto Blue Jays in the first round of the 2012 amateur draft with the 22nd overall pick. He signed for a $1.8 million bonus and made his pro debut on July 12th with the Vancouver Canadians. However, his first outing was rough, as he allowed 3 earned runs over 2/3 of an inning versus Boise. Things went better in further outings, however, and he finished the year at 3-0, 3.26 in 15 games, having earned a promotion to the AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats after 7 outings. He only pitched in relied that season, logging 19 1/3 innings.

In 2013, he was a full-time starter at New Hampshire, going 9-5, 3.30 in 20 starts. He pitched 111 2/3 innings, allowing 99 hits and striking out 129 to confirm that he was on a fast track to the big leagues. Indeed, even though he started 2014 with the AAA Buffalo Bisons, he was called up to Toronto on May 4th, making his debut that day with two-thirds of an inning in relief against the Pittsburgh Pirates, allowing a run. He made five appearances out of the bullpen, giving up 10 runs in 6 1/3 innings, although he did earn his first big league win, before being sent back to Buffalo on May 15th in order to return to the more familiar role of starter. His next appearance in the big leagues was a one-off start against the Kansas City Royals on May 31st and finally got a chance to shine at the highest level. He gave up only one run in 6 innings to earn the win; after he had set down the Royals in order in the 1st, his teammates exploded for seven runs against Aaron Brooks, giving him a comfortable cushion. He allowed only 5 hits, walked none and struck out 6 in the 12-2 win. From that point on, he became the Jays' most dependable starter, with veterans R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle finding it difficult to rack up wins. On July 24th, he kept the Boston Red Sox hitless for 6 innings before allowing a bloop single to Shane Victorino to lead off the 7th; he completed that inning with no further damage an relievers Todd Redmond and Rob Rasmussen added a hitless inning each for a combined one-hit 8-0 shutout win that improved his record to 6-2. He was handed a six-game suspension for throwing a pitch at the Baltimore Orioles' Caleb Joseph on September 15th, but after appealing the decision, he was able to defeat the New York Yankees, 6-3, on September 20th, to improve to 11-6. He dropped his appeal immediately after the game, and his suspension was reduced to five games by Major League Baseball, allowing him to make one final start before the end of the season. He finished the year with a record of 11-6, 3.65 in 26 games, including 20 starts, striking out 111 against only 28 walks in 130 2/3 innings.

Heading into the 2015 season, the Blue Jays were optimistic about breaking their 21-year postseason drought following some bold moves in the off-season, and they were counting on Marcus as one of the key members of the starting rotation. However things went awry when on March 10th, he tore ligaments in his knee during spring training fielding drills, apparently putting him out for the season. The Jays had a tremendous offense over the first half, but cruelly missed Stroman's presence in the starting rotation. While he was back at Duke taking some classes needed to complete his degree, he got in trouble with his professors by tweeting his enthusiasm from the classroom when he heard the Jays had made a big move at the trading deadline on July 30th and acquired top-notch starter David Price in a trade with the Detroit Tigers. Undaunted, Marcus posted a picture of his sneaking a peek at Price's first start with the Jays on his cellphone, hidden behind his laptop screen while attending another class on August 3rd. Well ahead of schedule, he returned to the mound for a rehabilitation outing on September 2nd. He showed some very good stuff as he pitched 4 2/3 innings for the Class A Lansing Lugnuts, giving up no hits and a walk while striking out 7. A week later, he was called up to Toronto and penciled in to start a key match-up against the New York Yankees on September 12th. His return came in the second game of a doubleheader after the Jays had won the opener, and he was the beneficiary of an early lead as his teammates scored 6 runs in the 2nd. He kept the Yankees off the board until the 5th, when he allowed a three-run homer to Brett Gardner but was credited with the 10-7 win that put Toronto 4 1/2 games in front of the Yankees. He won his next start as well, this time at home on September 18th, 6-1 over the Boston Red Sox, pitching 7 innings. He went 4-0, 1.67 in 4 starts and continued to pitch well in the postseason. While he ended up with a no-decision in Game 2 of the ALDS against the Texas Rangers, he was selected to start the deciding Game 5 ahead of David Price, who was instead used in relief to ensure Game 4 was in the bag. He was very solid that day, giving up only 2 runs in 6 innings to put the Jays on track for a 6-3 win. He then won Game 3 of the ALCS over the Kansas City Royals on October 19th, 11-8, and was in line to pitch the decisive Game 7 had the Jays not lost Game 6.

Marcus was named Toronto's opening day starter in 2016, facing off against the equally charismatic Chris Archer of the Tampa Bay Rays on April 3rd. He got some early run support and pitched into the 9th inning, emerging a 5-3 winner. On May 1st, he defeated the Rays again, 5-1, on his 25th birthday, striking out a personal best 9 batters in the effort. He left the team for a couple of days in May to attend his graduation ceremony at Duke University on May 15th, having been able to complete his coursework during his forced absence from the field the previous year. Overall, though, his season was a bit of a disappointment, as he finished with a record of only 9-10 and an ERA of 4.37 in 32 starts, On the positive side, he was the only Jays pitcher to top 200 innings, but he was clearly outperformed by starting rotation mates Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada. Still, he was tapped to start the American League Wild Card Game against the Baltimore Orioles on October 4th; he did well, giving up 2 runs in 6 innings as the Jays won the game in extra innings. He then started Game 3 of the ALCS against the Cleveland Indians on October 17th, but he squandered an opportunity to give the Jays a big win after his opponent, Trevor Bauer, had to leave the game in the 1st inning because of a cut finger; Marcus gave up 4 runs in 5 1/3 innings and was charged with the 4-2 loss.

Marcus hesitated before the 2017 on whether he would represent the United States or Puerto Rico, the country from which his mother came, in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He ended up deciding on the U.S. and it was a good choice, as he was named MVP of the tournament after some very solid starts, none better than his performance in the final game at Dodger Stadium against Puerto Rico on March 22nd. In that game, he gave up no runs on one hit in six innings to lead his country to an 8-0 win. The Blue Jays started the 2017 season in a rut, but Stroman was one of the few bright spots, recording 2 complete games over his first four starts. On April 25th, he won a game with his bat, as he was used as a pinch-hitter in the 11th inning of a game against the St. Louis Cardinals. He doubled against Miguel Socolovich for his first major league hit, then came in to score the winning run in a 6-5 win on an error by Aledmys Diaz. He confirmed his hitting prowess on May 18th, when he hit his first career homer in an interleague game played at SunTrust Park, the new home of the Atlanta Braves. His solo shot to the opposite field off Julio Teheran came in a 9-0 win in which he pitched 5 2/3 innings to end a three-game skid.

Stroman has many interests outside of baseball, including rap music - he has worked with rapper Mike Stud, whom he met at Duke and encouraged to pursue a music career - and launched his own clothing line in March of 2016. He has patented his own designer logo: HDMH, which stands for "Height Doesn't Measure Heart", a bit of a mantra for an athlete who was too often told he was too small to succeed. He is also very active on social media, with a half-million followers on his Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 1 (2016)

Further Reading[edit]

  • Gregor Chisholm: "Stroman ready to step into Blue Jays ace role: Righty's knee (and outlook) healthy as 2016 season dawns", mlb.com, January 20, 2016. [1]
  • Joe Lemire: "Marcus Stroman's miraculous comeback: He starts Saturday for the Blue Jays", USA Today Sports, September 8, 2015. [2]
  • Robert MacLeod: "Blue Jays’ Stroman finds happiness, comfort on the mound", The Globe and Mail, February 21, 2017, pp. S1-S4. [3]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Marcus Stroman's vision for life beyond baseball: 'I want a lane in everything'", USA Today Sports, February 10, 2016. [4]
  • Chad Thornburg: "Stroman dazzles en route to Classic MVP", mlb.com, March 23, 2017. [5]

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