Swan song? 8 teams had eyes on Stroman's gem
DETROIT -- The ball was not yet in Blue Jays center fielder Teoscar Hernandez’s glove for the final out of the seventh inning on Friday night at Comerica Park, and Marcus Stroman's satisfied stroll to the visiting dugout was well underway.
Stroman had thrown 101 pitches without issuing a walk or permitting a run. The Blue Jays were on their way to a 12-1 rout of the Tigers. And so, Stroman untucked his jersey, shook the hand of Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo, and clapped his pitching hand into the pocket of his glove in salute to a loyal cluster of Toronto fans at Comerica Park, less than two miles from Canadian soil.
“There was a group section right behind the dugout, really in tune,” Stroman said later. “Every time I walked off, they were cheering extremely loud. I love that. I love the passion from the Canadian fans, all across the entire country. Any time I can show them love, I’m going to do so.”
Stroman savored that opportunity Friday night, in what might’ve been his final start for the only professional organization he’s known.
The July 31 Trade Deadline is fast approaching. Stroman, 28, could make two starts before then, but the Blue Jays may decide to move him prior to his next scheduled outing on Wednesday at Rogers Centre.
Seven teams -- the Braves, Cubs, Dodgers, Padres, Rays, Reds and Red Sox -- had one scout in attendance Friday at Comerica Park.
The Yankees had two -- including former Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, a top advisor to Yankees GM Brian Cashman.
Undoubtedly, some of the talent evaluators were more focused on Tigers closer Shane Greene, who pitched the ninth inning despite his team trailing by 11 runs. But the Yankees, Braves, Padres and Rays are known to be looking for a starting pitcher at the Deadline, and Stroman’s pedigree in the American League East makes him one of the most appealing options.
The Twins, who were not known to have a scout at Friday’s game, also are interested in Stroman, sources say.
Stroman became accustomed to pitching in front of large scouting contingents in 2012, when the Blue Jays selected him in the first round of the Draft from Duke University. It’s happening again seven years later, in a different context.
“I don’t think it matters, man, to be honest with you,” Stroman said. “Everyone was saying that going into the game. I couldn’t care less, to be honest. I feel like you can watch the game from home the same as watching it from behind [home plate], as far as spin rate and all the things they get [from] video. I don’t know why they show up, you know?
“It makes it fun, I guess, but I honestly don’t think that far into it.”
Stroman’s value is at a relative high point, with a 2.50 ERA over his last six starts. In the Year of the Homer across the Majors, he’s permitted only 10 -- including three to right-handed batters -- over 117 2/3 innings this season. And the crowded scout section in Detroit on Friday night conveyed just how intense the market for Stroman has become.
The Tigers have scored the fewest runs in the Majors this year, but Friday’s test was significant in one crucial respect: Stroman proved his health with a second consecutive quality start after missing two weeks with a pectoral cramp in his left shoulder.
Stroman’s pitch selection is similar this year to what he utilized in a turbulent 2018, according to Brooks Baseball, with the notable exception of a more frequent cut fastball. On Friday, Montoyo identified a more crucial difference: Stroman is healthier now than he was last season, when he missed time with shoulder fatigue and a blister on his pitching hand.
Now that he’s in sync physically, Stroman’s creativity and bravado are on brilliant display. He talked after Friday’s start about the different tempos and arm slots he’s tried, while making sure to tell reporters that he’s “keeping some in store” for later this season.
“My body feels great, arm feels great,” Stroman said. “It’s kind of a nod to the offseason program I had. My second half, I feel, is going to be really strong. I feel like I’ve always been a second-half pitcher. I’m just looking to carry each start into the next one.”
In this instance, it’s not clear whether Stroman will be wearing a Toronto uniform when the next start arrives.
The Blue Jays are believed to be seeking at least one top rotation prospect -- close to the Majors -- in return for Stroman, as a complement to the celebrated group of young position players in Toronto (or arriving soon, in the case of Bo Bichette).
Stroman was asked Friday night if he’s found himself feeling more reflective lately.
“Yes and no,” Stroman said. “I can’t put into words how much I love Canada any more than I do. It is what it is. I’m just honestly taking [it] day by day. I’m enjoying all my time I have here. Obviously the priority is to go out there each fifth day and dominate for my guys here.
“I love this team, as far as the guys -- the Latins, the young guys, it’s a really tight-knit group that we have. We’re all brothers. [Vladimir Guerrero Jr.] was hugging me a few weeks ago. He was kind of upset, because there were a bunch of rumors going on. You could see him. He was like, ‘Papi, I don’t want you to go. I don’t want you to go.’ It’s going to be tough, if that day does happen.”
It may arrive soon. The nine scouts in Detroit saw why Friday night.