'Part Canadian' Stroman makes emotional return to Toronto
TORONTO -- Marcus Stroman has pitched in plenty of meaningful games at Rogers Centre.
He’s started home openers, a Wild Card Game and must-wins in a pennant race. But Tuesday’s start was meaningful for a new reason.
Making his first start in Toronto since he was traded by the Blue Jays in 2019, Stroman delivered the same show Rogers Centre fans grew accustomed to during his six years with the team. In the Cubs’ 5-3 loss on Tuesday, Stroman twirled his many pitches, bounced off the mound with fiery celebrations and completed his long-awaited Toronto return.
“From the second I walked out to warm up, they were just showing me so much love,” Stroman said. “I could feel that energy.”
In the bottom of the first inning, Stroman bounced out of the road dugout and onto the same mound he stalked to start his career. As a cameraman circled the righty during warmup, Stroman strutted around the familiar rubber before stepping in to face the first Blue Jays batter.
The home crowd didn’t roar in salute of Stroman’s return. That acknowledgment came the evening prior alongside a pregame video tribute. But a few fans stood before the road starter’s first pitch, and there were plenty of No. 6 jerseys sprinkled amongst the other Blue Jays colors in the crowd.
After Stroman worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the first, the former Toronto starter mowed down his once-teammates, retiring 11 consecutive batters from the second to fifth inning. As Danny Jansen stepped up in the second, Stroman saluted his former backstop with a flick of his fingers. A pitch later, Stroman had Jansen jogging back to the Blue Jays' dugout with a harmless fly ball, smiling as the catcher passed the pitcher’s mound.
“Those are all my guys,” Stroman said. “I was with those guys for so long, whether we were in the Minors or working out, training together. It's truly a family.”
The day before his return start, Stroman met with Jansen and other former teammates on the field before the game and relived memories in the road dugout with the media. He’ll never forget starting the 2016 Wild Card Game in Toronto, he said, or bringing postseason baseball back to Canada.
“Everything happened so quick when I was traded, so I've never really had the chance to kind of come back ever since then and really kind of take it in,” Stroman said. “So I'm thankful, I feel like I'm part Canadian in my blood at this point.”
After a Nick Madrigal diving stop and putout in the early innings, Stroman hopped off the back of the mound, jumping toward his second baseman and smacking hands together in celebration. Cubs manager David Ross was counting down the days to Stroman’s Toronto return, he said, knowing the energy and excitement his starter would bring to the mound. Ross had his share of returns, playing for seven different teams during his MLB career, but none quite as momentous as Stroman’s.
“The energy, the love, he's that type of guy,” Ross said. “And to see him get rewarded for that here, I thought was really cool.”
While the Blue Jays’ comeback ultimately stole back the crowd, Stroman was once again Rogers Centre’s main attraction -- at least for five innings. For the first time in three years, the Stro Show was back where it began.