Stroman hoping Encarnacion, Bautista return

Blue Jays ace loves club's chances with or without sluggers

Stroman hoping Encarnacion, Bautista return

PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic -- Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman has some familiar company at David Ortiz's charity golf tournament this weekend. Two hitters who have backed him throughout his career are also in attendance -- Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista.

But unlike Stroman, who remains with Toronto, Encarnacion and Bautista are two of the biggest bats on the free-agent market.

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It pains Stroman to think about his friends in that light.

"I'm going to do everything in my power when I go to this golf tournament right now to wheel in Encarnacion and Bautista. Those are my guys," Stroman said. "They've been there since I came up in 2012 and they took me under their wing, both of them. I've learned so much from those guys about pitching. I can't even begin to tell you. I love those guys, and obviously I wish them the best with whatever they do. They deserve the best, but obviously I'm selfish and I want them on my team."

Bautista didn't have much to say about his free-agent status while Encarnacion was not around during media availability.

"Being a free agent, you just have to be open to all possibilities. I don't know what the future is going to hold for me," Bautista said. "It's exciting to see what is going to develop."

The always upbeat Stroman is enthused about his team with or without the Encarancion-Bautista tandem.

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The Jays have gone to the American League Championship Series the past two seasons and Stroman thinks the streak can continue.

"I think we're great, regardless," said Stroman. "I think we're strong in all facets. I think we'll be right back to that position where hopefully we were the last two years. I'm extremely confident in my group. I truly feel like we have a different mentality than most teams. I feel like we do have that core back, so regardless of what happens with everyone, I feel like we'll be strong either way."

And Kendrys Morales, a big run producer, was recently signed as a free agent.

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"Kendrys, yeah, he's one of my least favorite guys to pitch against," said Stroman. "I have three guys I don't like pitching against, Papi, Kendrys and [Dustin Pedroia]. Kendrys, he can hit from both sides of the plate. He puts the barrel on everything. He's an extremely difficult at-bat. I'm glad to see him on my team."

Stroman will soon have some news regarding the World Baseball Classic, but said he couldn't expand on it until it is official. The righty added that he expects to pitch in the tournament, but said he was not at liberty to say for which country. Team USA and Puerto Rico are both options.

Ian Browne has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.