Stroman throws 3 innings in simulated game

Recovering righty nearing return to Blue Jays, could begin rehab stint next week

Stroman throws 3 innings in simulated game

ANAHEIM -- Right-hander Marcus Stroman is one step closer to making his return to the big leagues after he tossed three innings in a simulated game at the Blue Jays' Minor League complex in Dunedin, Fla., on Monday.

Stroman tossed approximately 40 pitches and felt "great" after his outing. He is scheduled to appear in another simulated game on Saturday, and he is then expected to begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Buffalo.

The 24-year-old Stroman was expected to miss the entire season after undergoing left knee surgery in March. He exceeded expectations in the rehab process and now appears to be a couple of weeks away from rejoining the Blue Jays.

"A whole summer's worth of work went into this," Stroman said in an on-camera interview with Sportsnet following his outing. "I've worked harder than I ever have before to be in the position I am today, and to go out there in my first simulated game and throw three innings, I felt great. Just looking forward to progressing this next week and getting back to the big leagues."

Buffalo's season comes to an end on Sept. 7, which should leave enough time for Stroman to make a pair of rehab starts for the Bisons. His pitch count will gradually increase, and Stroman's hope is to make enough progress to return to the Majors this year as a starting pitcher.

At the very least, Stroman should enter the mix for the bullpen, and while his goal is to start, he has said that he's willing to fill any role the club needs. Toronto doesn't currently have an opening in the rotation, but if Stroman makes it all the way back, then the club could either remove right-hander Drew Hutchison or temporarily go with a six-man rotation.

Those decisions will be made in a couple of weeks. First, Stroman will have to prove that his body can handle the increased workload and shake off any rust from the extended layoff. He continued throwing off flat ground during the recovery process, which should help move the process along.

"Knee feels amazing," said Stroman, who went 11-6 with a 3.65 ERA in his rookie season in 2014. "It has been a ton of work that has gone into this entire process. From my rehab team at Duke [University] to my team here with the Blue Jays, it has been unbelievable. ... I've had the best people behind me, working with me.

"It's been a tough process, but I'm at the point now where I feel ready to go, and I'm looking forward to getting back and helping the boys."

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