Stroman to return Saturday vs. Yanks
BOSTON -- Less than seven months after tearing his left ACL, Marcus Stroman will pitch for the Blue Jays in a game that will shape the American League East race.
On Tuesday, manager John Gibbons revealed that Stroman will make his first start of the season during Saturday's contest at Yankee Stadium in lieu of struggling lefty Mark Buehrle, who returned to Toronto to receive a cortisone shot in his shoulder. The move allows the team to bump Buehrle's scheduled outing back to next Tuesday in Atlanta.
Originally expected to miss the entire season, Stroman aggressively rehabbed his knee throughout the summer months and began a throwing program in August. The right-hander made the second of two rehab starts with Triple-A Buffalo on Monday and learned of the team's decision one day later.
For Stroman, that news represents the culmination of a long, tough road back.
"It's good getting that reassurance and that for sure you're pitching Saturday," said Stroman, who is still on the 60-day disabled list but will be activated before Saturday. "Hearing that, that feels pretty great. I knew in the back of my head if I work like I knew how I could work, I stayed confident, stayed positive throughout the process, I had a realistic shot of coming back this year."
Stroman, who went 11-6 with a 3.65 ERA as a rookie last year, entered Spring Training as the primary candidate to start against the Yankees on Opening Day. Instead, the Medford, N.Y., native will return in front of his hometown crowd five months later for a dangerously talented Blue Jays team.
"To pitch in front of my family on Opening Day, my first full season of my big league career, that would've been crazy," Stroman said. "But we're here now. And I'd rather be in the position we're in today with this team than for that."
General manager Alex Anthopoulos emphasized that Stroman is 100 percent healthy and ready to pitch in the Bronx this weekend. His results are another matter entirely and, admittedly, fall second to his health on the team's priority list.
"From a performance standpoint, I don't think anyone can predict what's going to happen," Anthopoulos said.
Stroman threw 81 pitches during his final rehab start, and Anthopoulos anticipates Stroman's workload will increase on Saturday.
"Normally you'll bump up 15 to 20 [pitches]," Anthopoulos said. "We haven't really discussed it, but I would definitely say at the most it'd be 100. It may be lower than that."
As for Stroman's place on the team after Buehrle makes his next start, Gibbons said he and others will discuss the matter when the current road trip wraps up next week.
"We want him to do good and just run with it," Gibbons said. "We think he's going to help us, or we wouldn't be doing this to begin with."
Stroman thanked his family, friends, the Blue Jays' staff and several others for assisting him in his recovery efforts. Now all that's left for the 24-year-old is to finally toe the rubber at Yankee Stadium and relish in the fruits of all his hard work.
"That was at the forefront of my head every single workout, when I was in class, just to get back," Stroman said. "Sitting there and realize you're not a part of something when you're supposed to be part of it, and it's so special happening, it's hard to watch. So I put major emphasis on getting back and making sure that I'm a part of what's going on here."