Young Blue Jays ace has proven his ability to rise to the occasion
By Alykhan Ravjiani
TORONTO -- Fresh off of his masterful outing on Opening Day at Tropicana Field on Sunday, Marcus Stroman is set to start the Blue Jays' home opener when the Red Sox visit Rogers Centre on Friday. Stroman will face off against Joe Kelly, with first pitch at 7:07 p.m. ET.
Stroman allowed three runs over eight-plus strong innings in his first opener, striking out five and walking one on 98 pitches.
After missing a majority of the 2015 season with a torn left ACL, Stroman returned to the team in September and went 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA, helping the Blue Jays win the American League East.
Entering this season as the team's undisputed No. 1 starter, the Duke University product lobbied for the Opening Day assignment, and he now gets the chance to double down with his first home opener.
"I've been looking forward to the home opener a lot more than the regular opener," Stroman said Thursday during the team's first workout at newly renovated Rogers Centre.
"I'm just really excited for the opportunity, really happy that I'm healthy. [It's] just a product of everyone around me for the past 365 days has been really special, and [I'm] just truly thankful for everyone that's helped me out to get to this point."
The young right-hander spent the majority of the offseason putting himself in position to shoulder the load of a frontline starter, with a lot of core work to strengthen his lower half.
With the departure of David Price to the Red Sox, Stroman has moved atop the team's rotation, and he believes he is more than prepared for the long season ahead.
"The goal of the offseason was to put my body in position to throw 200-plus [innings] this year, and I did that with Aaron [Sanchez]," Stroman said.
"I was still rehabbing my knee. People didn't realize the process that I went through, and my body and my knee are a lot stronger than last year."
Rising to the occasion in big moments is nothing new to Stroman. In addition to his quick recovery, the New York native also pitched six strong innings as Toronto won Game 5 of the AL Division Series against the Rangers at home. He is ready to once again hear the energy and passion from the sellout crowd on Friday.
"I think this city, everyone is really excited for baseball being back, and we couldn't be more excited from the guys coming in the clubhouse," Stroman said.
"I think the intensity is going to be there from Day 1, and I think everyone is going to carry that throughout the year. Like I said, we feed off that energy from the crowd and we love playing at home, and the louder that place is the better we feel our chances are to win. We can't wait to get out there and get that crowd screaming."
Alykhan Ravjiani is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.