DUNEDIN, Fla. — A year ago, Marcus Stroman was robbed of the Blue Jays’ Opening Day assignment because of knee surgery. Turns out, as disappointing as that injury was, it only delayed the honor.
Stroman, the former Patchogue-Medford standout, was named this year’s Opening Day starter for the Blue Jays, who will face the Rays on April 2 at Tropicana Field. And with Toronto’s early schedule, it’s also possible Stroman could get the call for the April 8 home opener when the Red Sox visit Rogers Centre.
“I’m honored, I’m humbled,” Stroman said Wednesday. “Just a huge thanks to everyone that got me to this point — family, friends, my doctors at Duke. I’m just extremely thankful and lucky to be in the position I am today.”
Stroman, 24, beat his rehab projections last season by returning in time to make four September starts (4-0, 1.67 ERA) and then three more in the playoffs (1-0, 4.19). Overall, Stroman is 15-6 with a 3.31 ERA in 24 career starts.
“The past year was a lot of ups and downs, a lot of emotion,” Stroman said. “To be given the ball Opening Day this year, it’s extremely special to me and my family. I can’t wait.”
Earlier in the day, manager John Gibbons named Stroman, who becomes Toronto’s fifth different Opening Day start in the past seven years. Drew Hutchison replaced Stroman in that role last season, breaking R.A. Dickey’s streak of two straight.
“He hasn’t been at it long up here, but he’s been really good in a short period of time,” Gibbons said. “He’s got an edge about him. He’s a guy that thrives in the big moment. He’s a difference-maker.”
Stroman said he received a congratulatory text from David Price, the Jays’ ace for the second half of last season before signing a seven-year, $217-million contract with the Red Sox. He was still waiting to hear from his former Toronto mentor, Mark Buehrle.
“I’ll definitely talk to Papa Buehrle at some point,” Stroman said. “I stay close with everyone that’s close with me.”