Stroman ready for 'moment ... I'll remember forever'

April 4th, 2024

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PHOENIX -- grew up on Long Island, but he never found himself in the seats at Yankee Stadium on Opening Day. Nor, despite spending his first six seasons with the Blue Jays in the American League East, has Stroman pitched against the Yankees as they cracked open a new season in the Bronx.

So when the new Yankees starter takes the ball on Friday for New York’s home opener, he knows it will be something special.

“It’ll be a moment that I think I’ll remember forever,” Stroman said Wednesday.

At the same time, the right-hander works hard not to blow things out of proportion. There will not be a full slice of Yankee Stadium reserved as his rooting section. Instead there are just a few tickets set aside for a “very, very, very small circle” of family and friends.

Nor will Stroman coat this start -- for the team he grew up watching, in front of a hometown crowd, against Toronto, his original club -- in layers of added significance.

Over the years, he’s learned to be “very process-oriented.” When the game starts Friday, Stroman said, there will be only the hitter and the catcher.

“I’m going out there to compete. It doesn’t really matter what lineup or who I’m facing,” he said. “I just take the same mentality into each and every game.”

Stroman has a job to do, and if he can repeat his performance from his first start as a Yankee, it’ll be more than a job well done. During the 5-3 win against the Astros on Saturday, he pitched six innings and allowed three unearned runs on four hits in six innings, walking two and striking out four.

After signing the 32-year-old for two years and $37 million on Jan. 17, the Yankees will take that kind of outing every time. Especially so with ace Gerrit Cole on the shelf to start the year.

If Stroman has a calling card as a pitcher, it’s consistency. In 10 years in the Majors, he owns a 3.64 ERA and hasn’t posted an ERA over 4.00 since 2018. Ever since tearing his left ACL in March 2015, Stroman has understood the importance of managing the ups and downs of a long season.

“You can’t be someone who rides the highs and the lows,” he said. “Whether I pitch really great or I don’t pitch too well, the next day I wake up, and I know exactly what I have to do.”

Performing in the big moments -- like, say, your first home start as a Yankee against your old team -- comes by hammering them down to a manageable size. To do that means to seek out the big moments to begin with.

“I’ve always been someone who wanted the ball,” Stroman said. “I think a lot of individuals don’t want the ball. A lot of individuals don’t want to be in the spotlight and want to avoid it. I’ve never been that. I work extremely hard, so at the end of the day, you want to be in pressure-filled moments.”