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Stroman staying patient as he awaits call

Blue Jays' No. 3 prospect hopes he can crack rotation out of Spring Training

TORONTO -- Marcus Stroman isn't sure exactly when an opportunity with the Blue Jays will present itself, but he's doing his best to remain patient until the phone eventually rings.

The 22-year-old appears likely to start the year in the Minor Leagues, but that has done little to change his outlook for the 2014 season. Regardless of what the outsiders might be saying, the goal of the club's No. 3 prospect is to make the big league roster.

That might be a difficult task to accomplish, but considering the Blue Jays still face quite a bit of uncertainty at the back end of their rotation, it also can't be completely ruled out.

"I honestly can't even explain how excited I am, because it has been at the forefront of everything I've been doing this offseason," said Stroman, who was in Toronto this week for a minicamp the Blue Jays had for some of their top prospects.

"It's also been in the back of my head, 'This year, this year, this year.' I'm going down to Florida in like two weeks, because I'm getting antsy already and I want to get out of the cold. It's a huge year. I'm looking forward to it, and whatever happens, happens, but I'll definitely be ready and prepared."

Stroman was selected by Toronto in the first round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. At the time, there were plenty of experts who said he was the most Major League ready arm of anyone in the Draft, and others even suggested he could bypass the Minor Leagues altogether.

Flash forward almost two years later and Stroman is still waiting for that opportunity. He is coming off an impressive season with Double-A New Hampshire, where he went 9-5 with a 3.30 ERA while recording 129 strikeouts in 20 starts.

The fact that Stroman has yet to make his Major League debut has less to do with his overall abilities and more to do with Toronto's philosophy on developing prospects. The Blue Jays' organization stresses patience with its young players and often resists the urge to skip any steps along the way.

That can be difficult to handle for a lot of prospects, but in Stroman's case, he understands there are a lot of positives with it as well.

"Yes and no," Stroman said when asked if he was frustrated by the club's philosophy. "I'd say yes, because you put in all this hard work and you feel like you're ready to contribute, but there is that waiting factor. And then no, because it shows you that they believe in you, that they want you to develop and refine everything that you have in your arsenal so that when you do get to the big league level, you're ready to contribute right away.

"They don't want you to have any doubts in your pitches or your mound presence or anything else. It's a little bit of both sides there, but it definitely makes you want to work harder to push the envelope a little bit."

The biggest benefit of Stroman's extended stint in the Minor Leagues is the amount of time that has been put into his development as a starting pitcher. When Stroman was drafted, the initial belief was that he would be best served as a reliever and had the potential to become a future closer.

One reason behind that scouting report was that Stroman is just 5-foot-9 and there were questions about his overall durability. That's a stereotype the New York native has been battling his entire playing career, and so far he has proven the skeptics wrong at every turn. There's still a long road ahead, but with each passing day, there appears to be more scouts and experts that are buying into Stroman as the complete package.

Perhaps the biggest reason for optimism in Stroman's projection as a starter is the addition of a changeup to his repertoire. It's a pitch that he started throwing towards the end of his career at Duke University, but something that didn't really begin to take shape until after being drafted.

The development of the changeup was Stroman's biggest goal for 2013, and the pitch is now a reliable option to go along with a well-above average fastball and a wipeout slider.

"It has been the main point of emphasis in everything that I've done the past year and a half," Stroman said. "I never realized how much of a weapon a changeup is until this year. It really messes up the hitter's timing. If you can control a changeup, I honestly think it's the best pitch in baseball.

"It's not a splitting changeup -- like Joel Peralta -- but it has a decent amount of fade to it. I used it predominantly to lefties, but a point of emphasis from last year was throwing it more to righties. And I've got a pretty good feel for it. I'm looking forward to using it as a weapon in 2014."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB.
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