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Stroman gets Opening Day assignment

@gregorMLB
March 13, 2019

SARASOTA -- For the second time in Marcus Stroman's career, he has been named the Blue Jays' Opening Day starter. Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo made the announcement Wednesday morning just a couple hours before Stroman was set to take the mound in a 6-4 loss to the Orioles. Stroman will

SARASOTA -- For the second time in Marcus Stroman's career, he has been named the Blue Jays' Opening Day starter.

Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo made the announcement Wednesday morning just a couple hours before Stroman was set to take the mound in a 6-4 loss to the Orioles. Stroman will become the 10th pitcher in franchise history to start Opening Day multiple times, and the first since R.A. Dickey in 2013-14.

Stroman is coming off a season in which he went 4-9 with a 5.54 ERA over 19 starts. He battled shoulder and blister injuries along the way and was limited to 102 1/3 innings after surpassing 200 innings in each of the previous two years. Stroman will be on the hill when the Blue Jays open the season vs. Detroit on March 28, with first pitch scheduled for 3:37 p.m. ET.

"It's an honor," Stroman said. "It's something you always strive for. It's something I always pride myself on and I'm just excited. Excited to feel that electricity, that energy of Toronto, of Canada, when I get out there on the mound.

"I've pitched in some pretty big moments before. I'm not shy of the moment. I think I thrive off energy and emotion so I'm excited. I can't wait to be out there."

Montoyo's decision on selecting the Opening Day starter came down to two people: Stroman and right-hander Aaron Sanchez. By Week 2 of Spring Training, the decision was obvious. Stroman -- who dealt with shoulder and blister issues last season -- started throwing earlier in camp while the Blue Jays maintained a cautious approach with Sanchez following last year's right finger surgery.

Sanchez is almost fully up to speed by now, but Stroman appears to already be there. In the game against the Orioles, Stroman faced just one batter over the minimum through three innings and he allowed just one run on two hits while striking out six over 4 1/3 frames. Stroman has two starts remaining, but at this point -- outside of maintaining his endurance -- he probably doesn't even need them.

"I think it says a lot but to be honest with you, there's no one who puts more pressure on anyone other than myself," Stroman said, when asked what this honor means for his career resume. "I know where I can be in this game, I'm not there yet, so I'm going to do everything in my power to go out there and be consistent and put together year after year after year.

"I haven't done it yet. I've done it in spurts, but I'm getting close to where I'm going to start putting years together and hopefully I'll be an elite pitcher in the game."

With Stroman set for Opening Day, the Blue Jays appear likely to start right-hander Matt Shoemaker in Game 2, and Sanchez in Game 3. That would leave the lefties, Ryan Borucki and Clayton Richard, to fill the final two spots of the rotation while veteran Clay Buchholz will remain in Florida to continue getting stretched out. Buchholz is expected to eventually join the staff, but after signing late in camp, it won't be until his arm is properly ready.

Should the Blue Jays decide to go with Shoemaker -- who joined the team on a one-year contract this offseason -- it would be more about splitting up a pair of sinker ball pitchers in Sanchez and Stroman than anything else.

"The way he’s scheduled in Spring Training, he might be No. 3," Montoyo said, of Sanchez. "We’re thinking right now, and this is not official. It would be Stroman, Shoemaker, Sanchez, then Borucki and Richard. That’s where we are right now.

"I like the fact of splitting Stroman and Sanchez because they’re kind of the same type of pitchers, sinkerballers. I want to have someone in between who's different and Shoemaker is that guy. It could be Shoemaker, or Richard or somebody different."

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