DUNEDIN, Fla. â€” Marcus Stroman wasn’t as consistent as he wanted to be in his first full season in the major leagues last year.
So the Blue Jays right-hander streamlined his mechanics in an effort to turn things around.
“Mechanically I got a little out of whack at some point and I just simplified everything on my own,” he said on Monday, speaking to reporters for the first time this spring. “That’s something I’m going to do this year, kind of in my delivery and my motion, but I feel great.
“I’m excited for what I’m going to do.”
Stroman was part of a Toronto rotation that led the American League with a 3.64 earned-run average, a .236 batting average against, and a major-league best 995 1/3 innings pitched last season.
The 25-year-old accounted for 204 of those innings, making him the only Blue Jays starter to surpass 200 on the year. But while he showed durability, Stroman’s numbers weren’t so impressive: he finished with a 9-10 record and 4.37 ERA through 32 starts.
This year he wants to do better. He took that goal into his off-season training.
“I take unbelievable care of my body. I pride myself on that,” Stroman said. “(I’m) five-foot-seven, but that’s something that I’m very confident in is 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 dominating each and every outing.”
Manager John Gibbons showed an unwavering confidence in Stroman when he chose him over veteran left-hander Francisco Liriano to start the American League wild-card game against the Baltimore Orioles last season.
Stroman went six innings that game, allowing two runs and striking out six in Toronto’s 5-2 victory.
Gibbons wasn’t too concerned with the peaks and valleys of Stroman’s 2016 campaign.
“The reality of the game at this level is you’re not going to be good every time. You’re going to get knocked down, especially the young guys,” Gibbons said. “He was in that stretch and there were people calling for him to be sent down (to the minor leagues).
“We thought he was going to work it out and he ended up hanging in there and turned the season around at the end.”
It was two years ago that Stroman’s spring training was cut short by a knee injury that forced him to miss the first five months of the 2015 season.
He put his rehab on hold to be able to return that September and pitch into Toronto’s first post-season since 1993.
“Everyone forgets I came back in five months from a full ACL surgery,” Stroman said. “I had to stop my rehab to come back and pitch for September and the playoffs. I had to re-amp my rehab and start it back up in the off-season, so it’s not the ideal process you want to go through (for an) ACL rehab.
“This year, I feel 100 per cent.”
Stroman had an eventful off-season, winning his first salary arbitration case to lock up a US$3.4 million salary for the upcoming season. Toronto had offered $3.1 million.
He also announced that he’d be playing for the United States at the World Baseball Classic, which begins next month.
Stroman will leave Blue Jays camp in Dunedin for at least one week to play the group stage in Miami. The second and final rounds, should the U.S. advance, will be played in San Diego and Los Angeles respectfully.
Gibbons isn’t sure what U.S. manager Jim Leyland has planned for Stroman at the international tournament â€” “Jimmy will take care of it,” he said â€” but he believes the competition will benefit his young starter.
“I think it might do him some good to go out there and compete in that WBC,” Gibbons said. “That’s right up his alley.”
Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press