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Stroman leads Blue Jays from top of rotation

Excellence, durability key factors to ace's importance to Toronto
MLB.com @gregorMLB

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays will have some question marks entering the 2018 season, but the man headlining their starting rotation should not be among them.

Right-hander Marcus Stroman established himself as one of the top pitchers in the American League this past season, and more of the same will be expected in the future. On a team with plenty of health concerns, Stroman has become the one constant that the Blue Jays can trust every five days.

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays will have some question marks entering the 2018 season, but the man headlining their starting rotation should not be among them.

Right-hander Marcus Stroman established himself as one of the top pitchers in the American League this past season, and more of the same will be expected in the future. On a team with plenty of health concerns, Stroman has become the one constant that the Blue Jays can trust every five days.

MLB.com is taking a look at potential "VIPs" across the game, and Stroman makes the list for Toronto because of his value to the rotation. After a season in which the Blue Jays lost Aaron Sanchez and J.A. Happ to injuries, Stroman has never been more important to the organization than he is now.

"I honestly feel like I'm just getting started, that I'm only going to get better from this point on," Stroman said at the end of the year. "I'm truly starting to learn about my craft. I'll expect a better year out of myself next year."

Video: Stroman discusses winning Gold Glove Award

Stroman has long talked a big game about wanting to become a workhorse in Toronto's rotation. His motto "nine every five" speaks to his desire to eat a lot of innings and never miss a start. After making at least 32 starts and tossing at least 201 innings during each of the past two years, Stroman is backing up those words with action.

One of the keys to Stroman's early success is that he adds another wrinkle to his repertoire every year. Two years ago it was the sinker, and in 2016 it was the quirky delivery that involves mixing tempo and the mechanics of his windup to mess with the timing of opposing hitters. In 2017, was the changeup, and the scary thing is that Stroman might just be getting started.

Video: TOR@CLE: Stroman allows one run over 7 2/3 innings

According to Statcast™, Stroman threw the changeup 159 times in 2017. As expected, there were some bumps along the way and opponents hit .313 off the changeup. But it got better as the year progressed, and Stroman fully expects it to become a go-to pitch in 2017. Add in a two-seam fastball, cut fastball, four-seamer, slider, and curveball, and he can go to just about anything at any given time.

"I'm starting to be able to kill 10 to 12 to 14 mph off the ball speed," said Stroman, who went 13-9 with the AL's fourth-best ERA (3.09) in 2017. "I'm seeing how it's playing now and it's definitely going to be a weapon next year, and I'm excited for it. I kind of figured it out midseason and put it right into the game. I'm excited to have an offseason with it."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Toronto Blue Jays, Marcus Stroman