Stroman expecting a dominant year on mound

Stroman expecting a dominant year on mound

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman has been an Opening Day starter. He's also started five postseason games, including the win-or-go-home American League Wild Card match-up against the Orioles last October. Toronto won.

Still, the 25-year-old -- now two years removed from surgery to repair the torn ACL in his left knee -- indicated after Monday's workout that he believes the best is yet to come.

"My knee finally feels 100 percent," he said. "My body feels the best it's ever felt. I'm just excited for this year. I take unbelievable care of my body. I pride myself on that. I'm 5-7, but I'm very confident in my body and what I'm able to do out there. I'm pretty sure I can go out there and throw 200, 220, 240 [innings]. I feel like I can do that year in and year out. That's the goal, as well as being dominant each and every outing."

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Monday was the first time Stroman has spoken with the media this spring, preferring to deal directly with the fans via Twitter, and that's a story in itself. He's always been among the most accessible players.

He was apparently stung, however, by criticism he received when he struggled in the early part of last season, before posting a 3.68 earned run average in the second half and improving his velocity. Manager John Gibbons said sometimes young players have to experience failure and that it can make them better in the long run.

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"The reality of the game at this level is you're not going to be good every time," Gibbons said. "You're going to get knocked down. Especially the young guys. That's part of it. He was in that stretch, and there were people calling for him to be sent down. We thought he was going to work it out, and he ended up hanging in there and really ended up turning his season around at the end.

"So that's all a part of it. Young guys, when they get to the big leagues fast, they don't fail in the Minor Leagues. So they're not used to it. They don't struggle much as amateurs either. So that's just part of the learning process. Some deal with it and some don't and they disappear."

Stroman didn't disappear. He worked hard to get stronger and simplified his approach, focusing more on using the pitches that were working best on a given night. He also smoothed out his mechanics and sees no reason why he shouldn't have his best season yet.

"I just got kind of out of whack at some point," Stroman said. "I just simplified everything on my own at that point, and that's something I'm going to stick with this year. It's in my delivery and in my motion. I feel excited this year for what I'm going to do."

Paul Hagen is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.