Remember Marcus Stroman?
You know, the right-hander out of Duke that the Toronto Blue Jays took 22nd overall in last year’s draft, a pick that generated no shortage of buzz because of his potential to contribute to the big league club as a reliever just months after being selected … before he was suspended for using a banned substance just before rosters expanded in September?
Well, he’s back — and by the looks of it, he hasn’t missed a step.
Understandably, the suspension had muted the excitement over the right-hander in 2013 as he’d been on the sidelines, but all it took was one start with Double-A New Hempshire to get the talk going again.
As far as first impressions go, it was a good one, with the 22-year-old throwing five strong shutout innings, allowing just four hits and a walk (plus a hit batsman), while striking out six. Aside from the obviously promising results, there are a couple of points of interest regarding the outing.
The first, obviously, is the fact that the team is comfortable with him starting in Double-A to start his season after just 11.1 innings of Class-A experience. Sure, that was the level he was at in 2012 when his season ended abruptly, but the situation (ie. the Blue Jays simply did not have enough arms) was a little different then …
Which bring me to the second point, which is that Stroman is being used as a starter instead of a reliever.
Though there’s little doubt that his value to the Blue Jays would be greater as a starting pitcher, it was commonly thought that the bullpen would provide the fastest route for him to get to the bigs.
That was part of the reason for his quick ascent to Double-A in 2012, and he’d ran into control problem then (six walks in eight innings). To go from that (and extended Spring Training) to opening at the same level as a starter not only demonstrates the confidence being shown to the young hurler by the organization, but also that he could be on a very fast track to the big leagues once again because of his versatility.
The situation has changed again, of course, with the team now needing starting depth more than they do in the bullpen.
With Chad Jenkins (another straight from Double-A pitcher) and Ramon Ortiz currently holding down the fort right now, it would not be a surprise if all it took was 8-10 more solid outing like Sunday’s to make Stroman a viable name to get his first taste of MLB action with the Blue Jays.
If it doesn’t pan out? Well, they always have the option to put him back in relief again — and he’s shown success there, too.