Marcus Stroman of LI starting with a clean slate for Blue Jays
DUNEDIN, Fla. - With a goal of making it to the big leagues this season, 2012 first-round draft pick Marcus Stroman knows he has a lot of work to do in Blue Jays minor-league camp this spring.
For starters, the hard-throwing pitching prospect might want to introduce himself to new Jays manager John Gibbons.
"I've heard the name, but I couldn't tell you anything about him," Gibbons said. "He's the outfielder, right? I'm sure if he's real good, he's going to get his opportunity."
To be fair, Gibbons is far more focused on learning about the 67 players he has in big-league camp. And Stroman, 21, laughed off the slight.
"He's new, so it's not necessarily a bad thing," said Stroman, who reported to minor-league camp for his physical on Tuesday. "I'm hoping after spring training that he'll know my name by the time he leaves here."
Stroman's name already has been in the news, but for the wrong reasons. He was suspended by Major League Baseball for 50 games last Aug. 28 after testing positive for the stimulant methylhexaneamine. Stroman said he "unknowingly ingested" it in an over-the-counter medication.
The righthander, who had compiled a combined 3-0 record with 23 strikeouts in 191/3 innings at Class A Vancouver and Double-A New Hampshire, said he was first contacted about the suspension by Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos.
"They were mad, initially, as anyone would be," said Stroman, who is eligible to return in mid May. "It was a scary conversation at first, but [Anthopoulos] let me know he was in my corner. The Blue Jays have been very supportive. Soon after, they kind of huddled around me and [assured me] it would be all right."
The Blue Jays expect Stroman to move past the incident.
"He acknowledged that he made a mistake, took responsibility and owned up to it," Blue Jays assistant GM Tony LaCava said. "He's paying the price. I'm sure he's learned a hard lesson, but we expect him to pick up where he left off in college."
Stroman said he has no fear of being labeled as a "user."
"I'm a very confident guy and have a close group of people behind me in my corner -- close friends and family," he said "That's all I need . . . I always have a smile on my face. It's just something you have to deal with and move forward. I'm very dedicated. I know how to keep my focus and let the talk be behind me while I'm doing my work."
He said he's done that work this offseason like never before.
"I was in the gym every day and working with my personal trainer [Russ Taveras] three to four times a week at Infiniti Sports in Bellport," he said. "I was also throwing with [former big leaguer] Neal Heaton, who's been my pitching coach since I was 8. I feel like I really put myself in a good position to be ready coming into the season."
Stroman was being groomed as a late-inning reliever last year, but LaCava confirmed that the Jays will use him as a starter.
"Once my suspension is up I'll be ready to rock, ready to go . . . I have a four-pitch mix [fastball, slider, cutter, changeup] and feel I can throw any pitch in any count. I feel like I've really developed those last two pitches this offseason, so it's not a problem being a starter."
Despite standing less than 5-9, Stroman reaches 97-98 mph. He struck out 290 in 220 innings at Duke.Stroman already is making the most of his stature in concert with his Duke marketing education. His slogan, "Height Doesn't Measure Heart," not only appears atop his Twitter page but is tattooed upon his chest. He has trademarked it and is using it to launch a line of apparel.
"My height has also been a discussion my entire life," he said. "It's something that fuels me. I was 'too short' to have an impact in the sports world. But when I put it out there on Twitter, I got huge positive feedback -- people saying they would love to buy shirts with the slogan . . . I have two of my best friends running it along with my mom to run [the business] back home."