TORONTO - Marcus Stroman had just gone down in spring training with an ACL tear that pretty much everyone figured would end the young pitcher's 2015 season before it started.
But the former Patchogue-Medford High School star, 24, had a message for his manager just after the March 10 injury.
"He told me, 'I'll see you in September,' " Blue Jays manager John Gibbons recalled Thursday of his starter for ALDS Game 2 against the Rangers on Friday. "And I thought it was, you know, pipe dreams."
Maybe he should have talked to Anthony Frascogna, who coached Stroman at Patchogue-Medford.
"Once he said it," Frascogna said of Stroman's pronouncement, "I was on board that he'd be there. I really wasn't surprised by his determination."
Indeed, Stroman -- who soon was off to Duke University to rehab and complete his undergraduate degree requirements -- beat the expectations, not to mention the odds.
"I didn't necessarily know that it would play out like it has played out," he said Thursday afternoon, several hours before the first postseason game in this city in 22 years. "But in the back of my head, through all those workouts [and] while I was in class, was to get back because I knew the team that we had was extremely special and we would be able to go pretty deep into the playoffs, so I made it a point of emphasis to get back to this team to be a part of something special."
Stroman had more than a bit part in that. He returned to make four September starts and resembled the pitcher he was for much of 2014, when he went 11-6 with a 3.65 ERA in his rookie season.
Stroman posted a 4-0 record with a 1.76 ERA, a string that began Sept. 12 at Yankee Stadium when he allowed three runs in five innings of a 10-7 victory over the Yankees that completed a doubleheader sweep.
"Totally unexpected," Gibbons said. "Even I thought, when there was word that he was going to make it back, that he was probably going to be out of the bullpen. He might throw an inning or two, and at least he could say at the end of the season he would go home healthy, but things kept moving fast. Put him in the rotation and he really picked up where he left off last year. He's been a force."
Stroman wore a wide smile throughout his nearly 10-minute session in front of the media, a smile that is present most of the time, people around the Blue Jays say.
Except when he's on the rubber. Then it's something far different, an on-mound intensity born from being told for too long that his 5-8 frame wasn't big enough, certainly not what big-league scouts looked for, particularly in righthanded pitchers.
"He definitely pitched with a little bit of an attitude, and not in a bad way," said Frascogna, still the baseball coach at Patchogue-Medford. "You could say he pitched with a chip on his shoulder."
Stroman put it in stronger terms.
"I pitch with a lot of hate and anger and emotion in my heart. It's just something that I've always kind of built myself on," he said.
Stroman smiled. Again.
"Hate, yeah, a lot of anger, a lot goes into it," he said. "I'm 5-8, a lot of people doubt me, so that's with me every single pitch on the mound."