Stroman in midseason form in first spring start

Stroman in midseason form in first spring start

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman will pitch for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic this spring. And he began working out shortly after last season ended. So, yeah, maybe that helps explain why he looked as though he was in midseason form in his first Grapefruit League outing.

Still, the way he dominated against the Pirates on Monday at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium was both impressive and encouraging for Toronto.

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The 25-year-old right-hander, who got off to a slow start last season while not yet fully recovered from surgery to repair a torn ACL before coming on strong down the stretch, didn't allow a ball out of the infield while retiring all six batters he faced, striking out three.

"I feel great. Put in a lot of work in the offseason. Take a lot of pride in the weight room," he said. "I love the weight room. It's something I pride myself on, my body and the way I'm able to move. I don't take many days off from the weight room ever.

"I'm ready to go. I'm ready to rock."

Stroman had a 4.92 earned run average through August last season, but turned it around with a 3.28 ERA in his last 11 starts. He picked right up where he left off Monday. "He looked good, and that's the important thing," said manager John Gibbons. "I thought he was really good."

Pirates third baseman David Freese led off the second with a high chopper that Stroman grabbed behind the mound, twisted and threw the runner out at first. Could there be a Gold Glove Award in his future?

"Absolutely," Stroman said without hesitation. "I'm athletic. I'm not just a pitcher. I'm an athlete first and foremost."

Two springs ago, it was during an otherwise routine fielding drill that Stroman slipped and tore his ACL. That was coming off a rookie season in which he'd begun to establish himself as one of the best young pitchers in baseball, going 11-6, 3.65. But he said there's no hesitation when he has to react quickly to get off the mound.

"I'm a beast," he said. "I don't think about that at all."

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