Jays' Stroman ready to embrace leadership role, concerned about lack of vets
Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman delivers in the first inning of the team's baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Tuesday, July 10, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Todd Kirkland)
Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press
Published Sunday, February 17, 2019 3:25PM EST
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Marcus Stroman is ready to embrace a leadership role with the Blue Jays this season, but he's concerned the lack of veteran presence on the team's roster will do a disservice to Toronto's young stars.
The 27-year-old right-hander, speaking to media on Sunday for the first time this spring training, credited older players like Mark Buehrle, Jose Bautista, Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson with helping him through his early years in the majors.
But with most of those names now long gone, Stroman said Toronto's youthful core is missing out.
"Should I honestly be that guy in the clubhouse? I would love to be that guy but ... I used to go to Mark Buehrle if I had a question, LaTroy Hawkins if I had a question and I want these guys that are young now to have that same feeling," Stroman said.
"I'm still trying to get established myself. I would never consider myself a veteran, I still feel like I'm working, I still feel like I'm climbing, I'm nowhere near where I think I'm going to be so I think we do have to put more of an emphasis in this game on keeping these (veteran) guys.
"Not only do they perform on the field, their mental (approach), I can't tell you how much they've done for me."
Stroman fielded questions over a lengthy 20-minute scrum that touched on a variety of topics -- including trade rumours that surfaced around him this off-season and his commitment to playing in Toronto -- and sounded critical at times toward the Blue Jays front office.
Visibly fired up throughout his media session, Stroman expressed his desire to sign a long-term deal but said he has yet to be offered anything by the Blue Jays.
He also said he hasn't directly expressed that sentiment to the front office.
"I don't think I should have to go and verbally say that," Stroman said. "They see it. Everybody sees my work ethic. Everyone sees the passion, everyone sees how hard I work on the daily, year-round. ... I put a lot of emphasis into my body and being good at this game. A lot more than most people.
"There is nobody that embodies this city better."
Stroman, who's been a Blue Jay since the team drafted him in 2012, is one of the older pitchers who will figure into Toronto's 2019 rotation. Veterans Clayton Richard and Matt Shoemaker, both acquired this off-season, are expected to fill out the starting five with 26-year-old Aaron Sanchez while Ryan Borucki, 24, will compete for the fifth spot.
Toronto signed Canadian right-hander John Axford on Saturday, a move that adds veteran presence to the bullpen, and position players Kevin Pillar, Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales are also returning to a team that is trending towards a more youthful core with baseball's top prospect Vlad Guerrero Jr. waiting in the wings.
While Stroman said he was excited to see what the young team could do this year, he also voiced doubts about the front office's composition of that roster.
"We're a young team so we need to perform," Stroman said. "I know everybody (that's) part of this team we have here now is doing everything that they can in their power to go out there perform so I hope everybody in this organization is doing the same.
"I hope they're putting us on the field with the best team possible to go out and compete with the Yankees and the Red Sox on a consistent basis."
Stroman, who was among the top pitchers in the league in 2017, struggled last year with a 4-9 record and 5.54 earned-run average through 19 starts while he dealt with blister problems and a shoulder injury that was "never right" over the course of the year.
Stroman said there were times he "probably shouldn't have even been out there (pitching)," but after an off-season that saw him ramp up his training schedule with head athletic trainer Nikki Huffman, he feels the injury is behind him.
"It was a battle," Stroman said of his down year. "I'd have to go out there and try at 110 per cent sometimes to just be. ... (but) everything's coming out extremely easy so I'm excited for the future.
"I know what I'm going to do, I know what I'm capable of.
"I can't wait."