Marcus Stroman pitches two hitless innings for Blue Jays in spring training debut

With Team USA in 2011, Marcus Stroman didn't

With Team USA in 2011, Marcus Stroman didn't allow a hit in 8.1 scoreless innings (seven appearances). He was 4-for-4 in save opportunities and struck out 17 of the 27 batters he faced, walking one. (May 31, 2012) (Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan)

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- His spring training Christmas present, fittingly enough, arrived on a day more suited for roasted chestnuts than peanuts.

With winds whipping straight out of Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, and temperatures mired in the mid-50s, former Patchogue-Medford righthanded ace Marcus Stroman got the spring training cameo he was promised by Toronto Blue Jays brass.

In return, he brandished two innings of promise himself.

Despite struggling with his nerves initially, the 21-year-old worked two hitless relief innings in his spring debut, striking out two and walking one in the Jays' 6-3 win against the Pirates.

"It was awesome, man," said Stroman, whom the Jays drafted last year out of Duke with the 22nd overall pick. "I was definitely a little amped up and rushed with my mechanics, but it was good to get out there and get my feet wet the first time."

With five members of his family among the 5,130 watching, Stroman entered in the seventh and needed 24 pitches to get through the inning.

He got John McDonald to pop up on a 3-and-2 pitch, then walked Alex Presley on five pitches. After a mound meeting with catcher Henry Blanco, he worked leadoff batter Starling Marte to a full count before getting him to swing and miss at a high, outside fastball. He then got Felix Pie to ground out to second, ending the inning.

"It wasn't a great pitch [to Marte]," Stroman said. "Something I kind of got away with. I wasn't locating very well because I was amped up, my mechanics were rushed. But I felt like I battled pretty well."

He then retired the side in order in the eighth.

"He did a nice job for the first go-round," Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He was overthrowing a little bit early on, missing the zone, but he's got what looks like a sneaky fastball. It's a good fastball, but it's got some explosion to it."

It looks as if there will be a second go-round for Stroman when the Blue Jays play their final two exhibition games against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. After the game, Stroman tweeted "Headed to Philadelphia with the big league team to play some exhibition games against the #Phillies! Way too excited.''

Apparently, Stroman's attitude has impressed management as much as his velocity, which has been clocked in the high 90s.

Though Stroman is serving a Major League Baseball-imposed 50-game suspension for testing positive last August for the stimulant methylhexaneamine, Gibbons said he has "heard great things about him."

In fact, Tuesday's appearance, according to Stroman, was a reward from Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos for his overall conduct this spring.

"[Anthopoulos] let me know that I had earned it, that I've kind of been going about my business and pitching well and handling the media pretty well," Stroman said.

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