Stroman's final rehab start set for Monday
Right-hander rejoins Blue Jays for bullpen session, reflects on rehab at Duke University
TORONTO -- Marcus Stroman can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel as his grueling six-month rehab from left knee surgery is days away from being over.
Stroman rejoined the Blue Jays on Friday afternoon at Rogers Centre to throw a bullpen session. He'll remain with the club this weekend before going to Triple-A Buffalo on Monday to make his final rehab start.
The 24-year-old was originally ruled out for the season after getting surgery in March, but Stroman maintained all along that he would be back this year. In the end, it appears he was right.
"Just a lot of hard work, motivation and faith, that's basically all it took," said Stroman, who went 11-6 with a 3.65 ERA in 26 games last year. "Two-a-days six days a week for four months straight will do the job. A lot went into it, a lot of pain, but we're in the position that we sought to be, and it's exciting."
Stroman had surgery to repair a torn ACL after he sustained the severe injury while participating in pitcher's fielding practice during Spring Training. That typically requires a ninth-month rehab. Stroman was able to do it in six, but it wasn't easy.
There were countless hours spent this summer at Duke University working out in the pool and doing strength exercises. Stroman would work out twice daily, and in between, he attended classes to complete his degree with graduation scheduled for next May. To keep his arm in shape, Stroman would spend time each day throwing while sitting in a chair.
The classes served as a distraction to break up the monotonous routine of slowly rebuilding the ligaments and muscles around his knee. At Duke, he was able to be around some of his former coaches and a team of doctors that he had nothing but praise for upon the return to Toronto.
"When they said season's done, I knew my season wasn't done," Stroman said. "But obviously it's an ACL, it's a major injury, and they're not going to come out and say, 'He's going to be back.'
"Once my ACL went out, I got a plan together to go back to Duke. I realized I'm going to be with some of the best ACL doctors in the world, probably one of the best rehab teams I can be with. We attacked it, man, we crushed it. It wasn't fun, but it was well worth it."
The Blue Jays have yet to announce their plans for Stroman upon his imminent return. Manager John Gibbons said he plans to reserve judgment until the organization sees how he performs on Monday night's start vs. Pawtucket. Stroman is expected to be in the 80-90 pitch range for that outing in what will be his final tuneup for big league hitters.
Toronto likely will find a way to give Stroman at least a couple of starts once he makes it all the way back. How, exactly, that will happen remains up in the air. Right-hander Drew Hutchison could lose his spot in the rotation, while the club also could opt to temporarily use a six-man rotation while contining to pitch David Price every fifth day.
Stroman has never lacked confidence, so it should come as no surprise that he described himself as being in "midseason form, 100 percent." He looked that way in a rehab start for Lansing earlier this week with 4 2/3 scoreless innings, but it's one thing to do it against hitters in Class A, and it's another thing entirely to dominate at the big league level.
There were countless tests this summer at Duke, but the biggest one is still to come, and Stroman couldn't be happier about it.
"I'm playing with an All-Star team right now," Stroman said of the team that added Price, Troy Tulowitzki and others during his absence. "I'm playing with my idols when I was growing up. All the guys I was playing with on XBox and Playstation growing up, they're on my team. I can't explain it, it feels like a dream. I wake up every morning, it feels like a dream."