Reward for Stroman is making big starts

Once expected to be out for the year, Blue Jays righty set to pitch in postseason

Reward for Stroman is making big starts

BALTIMORE -- Marcus Stroman's long and tedious road to recovery was rewarded on Wednesday when he became the youngest pitcher in Blue Jays history to earn the win in a game that clinched the division.

Stroman continued his remarkable comeback from left knee surgery by allowing one run on five hits and two walks in Toronto's 15-2 victory over the Orioles. The fact that he was pitching at all is remarkable considering earlier this year he was ruled out for the season with a torn ACL.

The 24-year-old returned Sept. 12, and he has been nearly flawless ever since. In four starts, he is 4-0 with 18 strikeouts and a 0.963 WHIP over 27 innings. The performance has made all of those countless hours of rehab at Duke University over the summer more than worth it.

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"I had this in the back of my head," Stroman said of his mentality during rehab. "That's kind of what kept me going, to be in this position where I could come back and pitch in meaningful games for my team. I kept good faith the entire way and it played out perfectly. I'm just blessed and lucky to be in this position."

Stroman's return has been arguably as big of a development in September as the trade that saw left-hander David Price join the Blue Jays in late July. Toronto's rotation now appears to have two front-of-the-rotation pieces to complement R.A. Dickey and Marco Estrada. It's a formidable group of four that should match up well against any team in the American League.

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The additions have turned the rotation from a weakness into a strength. Outside of Price getting the ball in Game 1 of the AL Division Series next Thursday, Toronto has yet to reveal its plans for the starting staff in the postseason. But no matter what happens, Stroman will figure prominently into the picture.

Even more surprising than Stroman's actual return is how well he has pitched since being back on the mound. Despite being limited to two rehab starts, Stroman has looked to be in midseason form since the day he got back. The sinker and curveball look just as good as last year, while the slider to left-handed hitters arguably has been even better.

"It was never just getting back," Stroman said. "I knew if I got back and my knee was ready to go, I knew that I'd be able to pitch in pretty big games and I knew my stuff would be where it would be and I knew I could be in midseason form to where I was last year."

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.