Stroman's deep arsenal on full display in final spring start

March 24th, 2024

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Yankees right-hander was sharp Sunday, featuring his six-pitch repertoire over six scoreless innings in a 1-0 win over the Pirates at LECOM Park.

Stroman is listed at 5-foot-7, 180 pounds, but he carries himself in the manner of Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, who pitched at 5-11, 170 pounds.

“Watching Pedro, being undersized, he was someone I used to watch a lot of video on," Stroman said. "His confidence, his demeanor. It’s something I always idolized. I’m the most confident out there. I might be the littlest, but I swear I feel like I’m 7 foot, throwing 100 mph when I’m out there on the mound -- regardless of how my stuff plays.”

And in this outing, it played great. Stroman allowed four hits with two walks and notched five strikeouts.

“He’s a pitcher,” said Yankees bench coach Brad Ausmus, who managed this split-squad game. “He commands both sides of the plate. He’s got multiple weapons. He can make the ball move in at least two, sometimes 2 1/2 directions. And it’s like -- insert swear word [for batters].”

Hitters like to eliminate the pitches hurlers aren’t sharp with on a given day. But Stroman throws so many that he keeps them guessing no matter what.

“Everyone knows I’m going to throw sinkers,” Stroman said of the pitch he threw 46 percent of the time in 2023, according to Statcast. “I’m starting to flash a really good four-seamer that guys don’t have in the scouting report.”

The four-seam fastball -- a primary pitch for many starters -- is something Stroman threw only 8 percent of the time last year. Increasing the likelihood of that pitch coming should significantly help keep batters off balance.

Stroman threw two slurves, a cutter, a four-seamer and a splitter to Rowdy Tellez in the fourth inning -- getting him to wave at a second slurve for the strikeout.

The Pirates had their best scoring opportunity when Jared Triolo lined a double leading off the fifth. Oneil Cruz moved him to third base with a groundout.

That’s when Stroman did his best pitching. He threw Andrew McCutchen two sinkers, one slider and two splitters, then got him to go down swinging on his second slider of the at-bat.

Then Ke’Bryan Hayes -- son of Charlie Hayes, who caught the final out of the Yankees’ 1996 World Series clincher -- got two splitters and two sinkers and went down swinging on the first slider he saw.

Inning over.

“I’m someone who believes very confidently in all my stuff,” said Stroman. “If a catcher’s putting down a pitch, I usually feel I can execute it. And knowing those situations, you’re obviously trying to put a little extra emphasis on finishing your pitches and getting them to the spot that you need them to be, because those guys are elite hitters.

“So I just made quality pitches when I needed to. … When I’m on and fluid, I’m usually pretty dangerous on the mound.”

Stroman definitely looked ready for his first regular-season start Saturday in Houston.

“My mechanics were the best they’ve been all spring,” noted Stroman, who has a 2.61 ERA over five Grapefruit League starts. “That’s what I’m happiest with.”

“He was extremely efficient -- especially early on,” said Ausmus.

This is the first season with the Yankees for Stroman, a two-time All-Star and a 2017 American League Gold Glove Award winner with the Blue Jays. Stroman -- 77-76 with a 3.65 ERA over nine seasons -- signed a two-year contract worth $37 million in January, with a player option for a third year.

When told Luis Gil, from the Dominican Republic, was announced Sunday as the fifth starter by Yankees manager Aaron Boone, Stroman smiled and said, “I’ve always been a fan of Gil -- even before the Yankees. I kept in touch. He’s always been a fan of myself. We’ve always been keeping in touch on Instagram. So to see him in the rotation and healthy is awesome. He can go out there and dominate.”

How did they connect?

“A lot of Latin guys love me, man,” said Stroman, 32. “I’m Latin, and so I’ve connected with a lot of Latins around the league. And there are so many guys who say that I’m one of their favorite pitchers because of the flair and confidence I pitch with.

“I still feel like a young guy in this game. So it’s weird anytime a young guy comes up to me and says I’m one of their big players or they look up to. It’s so very humbling to me. It’s awesome to be reminded sometimes of how good I’ve been in the past and guys looking at me as a role model.”