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Eager, 'grateful' Stroman gears up for Classic

In final tuneup before tournament, Blue Jays righty strikes out three
Special to MLB.com

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Following his final spring start before departing for the World Baseball Classic on Sunday, Marcus Stroman emerged from the Blue Jays' clubhouse wearing a white T-shirt with the Team USA emblem on it.

It's easy to see the young right-hander is eager to represent his country on the global stage.

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Following his final spring start before departing for the World Baseball Classic on Sunday, Marcus Stroman emerged from the Blue Jays' clubhouse wearing a white T-shirt with the Team USA emblem on it.

It's easy to see the young right-hander is eager to represent his country on the global stage.

"I'm just extremely grateful to be selected to play for them. It's a true honor to be able to represent your country," Stroman said after allowing one run on four hits with three strikeouts in Toronto's 5-3 loss to the Rays.

Though Stroman is among several Blue Jays set to play in the Classic, this chance means more to the Medford, N.Y., native. In 2011, while pitching at Duke University, Stroman donned the red, white and blue for the U.S. National Collegiate Team.

:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::

Now, he will get his opportunity to shine with the best of the best.

"It was unbelievable stepping out there every day with 'USA' across my chest," Stroman recalled. "I can't imagine what it's going to be like stepping out there in Miami with the team and with the entire country behind me."

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said he understands the excitement that comes with playing in the Classic, especially from someone such as Stroman who plays the game with so much emotion. Gibbons' only concern is the possibility of injury, like the rib muscle strain that Brett Lawrie sustained during his time with Toronto in 2013, knocking him out of the Classic with Team Canada.

"I think I've said before, most coaches and managers would probably not have guys go, but it's been good for baseball," Gibbons said. "You know, I think everybody fears guys getting hurt, but very rarely do guys get hurt. They could get hurt out here, too. ... So you always fear that, but some guys, I think it will do them some good."

Stroman understands the risk that comes with leaving his club amid Spring Training, but the opportunity to perform for his nation is like nothing else.

"From the second Joe Torre called me and asked me to play for the team, I've had butterflies," Stroman said. "But obviously, the Blue Jays are first and foremost, and I've done everything in my power to make sure that I'm ready and prepared to go into [Team] USA and to also make sure that I'm ready to go for the season."

The World Baseball Classic runs from Monday through March 22. In the U.S., games will air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN will provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. will have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament will be distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.

Jeff Odom is a contributor to MLB.com.

Toronto Blue Jays, Marcus Stroman