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Stroman passes 200 innings in breakout year

Righty cements status as Blue Jays' ace with 13-9 record, 3.09 ERA in 2017
MLB.com @gregorMLB

NEW YORK -- Marcus Stroman is no stranger to the big moment or the big stage. He's enjoyed plenty of success throughout his four-year career, but this season will be remembered as the one he pitched like a bona fide ace.

Stroman put the finishing touches on his best season to date by surpassing the 200-inning mark during Saturday afternoon's 2-1 loss to the Yankees. He allowed a pair of runs over four innings to finish the season 13-9 with a 3.09 ERA.

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NEW YORK -- Marcus Stroman is no stranger to the big moment or the big stage. He's enjoyed plenty of success throughout his four-year career, but this season will be remembered as the one he pitched like a bona fide ace.

Stroman put the finishing touches on his best season to date by surpassing the 200-inning mark during Saturday afternoon's 2-1 loss to the Yankees. He allowed a pair of runs over four innings to finish the season 13-9 with a 3.09 ERA.

Full Game Coverage

During a season in which Aaron Sanchez made just eight starts, Marco Estrada went into a two-month slump and J.A. Happ missed six weeks with an elbow injury, Stroman was the one constant in Toronto's rotation. It might have been a down year for the Blue Jays, but it was a breakout season for the New York native.

"It's been a huge point of emphasis of mine," Stroman said of reaching 200 innings. "I know there were big questions from critics, analysts, saying I could never be a durable guy because of my height. Going out there and pitching 200 innings every year is a goal of mine, and being able to get there is extremely gratifying."

Stroman does have his fair share of critics, but one aspect of his game that people certainly can't chastise is the ability to take the ball every five days despite some health issues along the way. There was a blister that popped up midway through the year and never quite went away and there was a September line drive off his elbow in Baltimore, but neither problem forced him to hit the disabled list.

At a time when true innings-eaters are becoming increasingly rare across baseball, Stroman is trying to buck the trend with his ability to get deep into games. When he closed out the third inning of Saturday afternoon's game in New York, he became just the 11th pitcher this season to reach 200 innings. One of his idols, Mark Buehrle, did it 14 years in a row, and Stroman claims he wants to follow a similar path, as difficult as that might be.

Boston's Chris Sale or Cleveland's Corey Kluber will rightfully win the American League Cy Young Award, but Stroman should get his fair share of top five votes in a secondary group that also includes New York's Luis Severino and Houston's Justin Verlander. It was a banner season, and considering Stroman is only 26 years old, he might just be getting started.

"It puts you on an elite level because that's what the good ones do," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "They chalk up innings for you because they stay in the game, they're competitive and they're your top pitchers. I think everybody wants to get to that level ... and I would expect him to do it for a few straight years. He has that ability. Stro did a nice job for us."

Stroman tries to add a new wrinkle to his repertoire every year. Two years ago it was the sinker. Last season it was the quirky delivery that involves mixing tempo and the mechanics of his windup. This year it was adding a refined changeup to his arsenal midway through the year.

According to Statcast™, Stroman entered play on Saturday having thrown the changeup 159 times this season. As expected, there were some bumps along the way and opponents hit .313 off the pitch, but it got better as the year progressed and Stroman fully expects it to become a go-to pitch in 2018. 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," Stroman said of the changeup. "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