TORONTO -- It's been a season to forget for Marcus Stroman, who couldn't make it out of the second inning in his first start since returning from the 10-day disabled list with a blister injury.
The right-hander pitched just 1 2/3 innings, surrendering four runs before the blister on his pitching hand flared up again and he was yanked in a 7-1 loss to the Rays on Monday night at Rogers Centre.
"There's no doubt it's still bothering him," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "I think more than anything it's hurt the grip or the feel of things."
The Blue Jays had high hopes for the 27-year-old Stroman, who was coming off a 2017 campaign in which he finished eighth in American League Cy Young voting and posted a 3.09 ERA over 201 innings.
This season has been a struggle from the get-go for Stroman. He entered the season battling a shoulder injury that plagued him for the early part of the year. He posted a 7.71 ERA through his first seven starts before he was placed on the DL on May 11 with right shoulder fatigue.
He'd been better since coming off the DL, recording a 3.84 ERA over his last 11 starts, but he'd been battling a blister on his right middle finger that landed him back on the DL following his five-run four-inning outing against the Yankees on Aug. 17.
"Very frustrating, I mean there's no other way to put it," Stroman said of his 2018 season. "I know when my finger is good and my shoulder is good, I know what I'm capable of doing out there. It's just a matter of getting it to that point, and I know I'll get it there in the offseason."
His return Monday night came to an end during a troublesome second inning. He allowed a leadoff triple to Kevin Kiermaier, then two batters later the Blue Jays couldn't record an out on a fielder's choice by Nick Ciuffo. Mallex Smith followed with an RBI single, then Matt Duffy scored a pair with a double. Stroman recorded one more out, then plunked Tommy Pham before Gibbons turned the game over to his bullpen.
"I just had no feel today," Stroman said. "Just didn't make good pitches when I needed to, and I kind of paid the price."
Gibbons didn't rule out the possibility of placing Stroman back on the DL, but he wants to leave that up to Stroman and the training staff.
"I don't know where we'll end up with that, but it was clearly affecting and bothering him," Gibbons said. "That part of his finger, that's his livelihood."
Stroman plans to keep fighting through the injury despite having to manipulate his grips to avoid the baseball's seams.
"I like to compete, I don't like sitting," Stroman said. "I mean, I only get to play once every five days to begin with. … I hate being on the DL, I hate watching, I hate not being out there, it frustrates me, it kills me inside, honestly. So I'm going to do everything I'm my power to be out there."
The outing was Stroman's shortest start of the season and tied for second shortest of his career. It marked the 12th time he failed to record six innings pitched this season.
The Blue Jays bullpen scattered three runs over the remaining 7 1/3 innings. Jose Fernandez pitched two innings, allowing two hits and a run. Danny Barnes followed, allowing one run without recording an out. Tim Mayza went two innings without allowing a hit, then Christopher Guerrieri surrendered a solo homer in his lone inning of work. After Tyler Clippard, Mark Leiter pitched a clean inning to close out the night in his Blue Jays debut.
Ryne Stanek opened the game for the Rays, pitching one inning, before Yonny Chirinos came in to throw seven innings, allowing just one run on four hits.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Blue Jays sparked a rally with a pair of walks in the second inning before Teoscar Hernandez hit an RBI single to move Russell Martin to third base and bring the tying run to the plate in Danny Jansen. But Toronto couldn't capitalize again as Jansen popped out and Luke Maile followed with a strikeout.
Billy McKinney extended his on-base streak to 13 games to begin his Blue Jays career. He is now hitting .360 with a 1.081 OPS this year.
Ryan Borucki (3-3, 4.52) takes the ball for the Blue Jays at 7:07 p.m. ET in the second of three games against the Rays at Rogers Centre. Borucki is coming off a rough five-run outing in which he pitched just 4 2/3 innings against the Orioles. He'll make his first career start against the Rays who will again send Stanek (2-3, 2.72) to the mound as their opener.