Marcus Stroman has made good use of his time away from the Blue Jays. The former Patchogue-Medford High School pitching star, who suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in spring training, went back to Duke to finish his degree.

"He's in a real good frame of mind,'' Earl Stroman, the pitcher's father, said Saturday at Yankee Stadium.

The injury became a blessing in disguise. "That's what I told him,'' the elder Stroman said. "The only thing I ever wanted was college. Now he's got his degree [in sociology with a minor in business], and Dad's a happy man. Not many guys have their degree. He's now one of the guys who has his four-year degree.''

How was it for Stroman, who was 11-6 with a 3.65 ERA in his rookie season last year, to attend classes with everyone else? "It's Duke,'' his father said. "Everyone's a celebrity at Duke.''

Stroman said his son's rehabilitation "is outstanding. He's fully healthy. He's been throwing. He should be ready. My son's always ready.''

It originally was thought that Stroman would miss the entire season, but he is expected to begin a rehabilitation assignment later this month. Some published reports have him returning to the team in September in a potential relief role. A Blue Jays spokesman said that has not been discussed.

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Earl Stroman was near the Blue Jays' dugout and greeted several players. "I'm still a little bit of a Yankees fan, but I've got to go with my heart and my son,'' he said. "When they're not playing the Blue Jays, I'll go Yankees. If they're playing against the Blue Jays, I go Blue Jays.''

And there's no doubt whom he wants to win the division. "I'm hoping the Blue Jays,'' he said. "I want to see them and my son make the playoffs.''