Marcus Stroman considers himself a starting pitcher. The Blue Jays agree and believe he will someday be an asset to their Major League rotation. But, at least for as long as he is in the Arizona Fall League, Stroman is happy to moonlight as a reliever.
Because each Major League team is typically only able to secure one spot in an AFL starting rotation, Stroman is working out of the bullpen in Salt River this fall. And, so far, he's looked at home there.
Stroman threw another scoreless inning in Salt River's 5-3 victory Friday against Peoria at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. The victory snapped the Rafters' three-game losing streak.
Stroman, who is ranked No. 91 on MLB.com's Top 100 prospect list, struck out three batters in his fourth appearance of the fall. He has given up just one run in four innings and said he feels comfortable.
"I'm getting back into reliving mode, coming in and giving it everything you've got for one inning," Stroman said. "I'm enjoying it out here. I love the atmosphere."
When Stroman was coming out of Duke last year, some scouts thought the 5-foot-9 right-hander profiled better as a reliever. But the Blue Jays gave him the opportunity to start and he excelled this season in Double-A New Hampshire. In 111 2/3 innings, he posted a 129-to-27 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 3.30 ERA.
"I really have been able to settle in as a starter and open some eyes about starting," Stroman said. "I'm not singled out to just a relief role. I'm a starter all the way now."
Friday, Stroman was one of four Rafters relievers who combined for five innings following a strong start by right-hander Sam Gaviglio. The Cardinals farmhand allowed one run in four innings and struck out four batters.
Salt River took the lead with two runs in the fourth inning thanks to a bases-loaded single by left fielder Tim Wheeler. The Rafters added another run in the fifth inning and two more in the eighth as they bounced back after getting shut out Thursday.
Right fielder Stephen Piscotty, the Cardinals No. 7 prospect, went 2-for-3 with a triple, a walk and a stolen base. He now has a five-game hitting streak and is a blistering 10-for-15 in four games this week. First baseman Andy Burns went 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI double.
The Javelinas scored their first run of the night on Cheslor Cuthbert's sacrifice fly in the second inning. They mounted a comeback in the ninth inning and brought the tying run to the plate with no outs against right-hander John Stilson. But Peoria only managed to cut the deficit in half before Stilson got out of the jam and ended the game.
Second baseman Chris Taylor, the Mariners' No. 5 prospect, went 3-for-5.First baseman Japhet Amador and catcher Cameron Rupp both finished the night 2-for-4 with a run.
The Rafters have gotten off to a slow start to the fall and were winless in five home games before Friday night. Stroman said he hopes breaking through for a home victory is the start of a turnaround for Salt River.
"It definitely feels good to break our losing streak at home," Stroman said. "Hopefully, we can carry it into tomorrow and get on a roll here."