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Marcus Stroman not afraid of pressure as he gets ball for Blue Jays in Game 3 of ALCS

Marcus Stroman of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches

Marcus Stroman of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches in the seventh inning against the Texas Rangers during Game 2 of the American League Division Series at Rogers Centre on Oct. 9, 2015 in Toronto. Credit: Getty Images / Tom Szczerbowski

TORONTO - On the eve of a start the Blue Jays hope can keep them from falling into a 0-3 ALCS hole against the Royals, Marcus Stroman strolled around Rogers Centre seemingly without a care in the world.

He finished his workout in the outfield, then detoured to third base, where he scooped a few grounders. Next he sauntered behind the batting cage, where he planted himself between two staff members and casually chatted while taking in BP.

No, the 24-year-old righthander said later, confirming what appeared obvious, he's not feeling any pressure from the latest "biggest start of your career" moment.

"I want to be the one to have the ball in these games," the former Long Island star said Sunday. "That's what all the preparation and all the hard work is, to be able to take the ball and go out in pressure situations. And I feed off the energy of the crowd and my teammates and I'm looking forward to being out there."

The Blue Jays look forward to it as well.

"We're confident with Marcus out there," centerfielder Kevin Pillar said.

Added first baseman Chris Colabello: "Nothing fazes him. From the first day I met him, I've never seen him waver confidence-wise and belief in himself. He's the kind of guy who can put a whole city on his back."

Stroman, in some ways, did that for the Blue Jays in September. Rejoining an on-fumes rotation during the pressure cooker of a pennant race after a sooner-than-expected return from an ACL tear suffered March 10, Stroman went 4-0 with a 1.76 ERA in four starts.

He got the ball twice in the ALDS, including Game 5, and allowed five earned runs in 13 innings.

In less than two full big-league seasons, Stroman has become the Blue Jays' big-game arm of choice.

"He keeps coming up in those big games for us. There's a reason for that," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. " . . . He's the perfect guy for it. I think he thrives on this kind of situation. He's been known to rise to the occasion in a short career."

Exactly why that is, Stroman isn't sure, other than fully embracing and enjoying it.

"The bigger the crowd, the bigger the moment, I feel like I'm able to put myself in a position that I excel better," he said. "I don't know if that's the nature of how I was raised, [but] I feel like pressure situations don't necessarily faze me. They excite me more. And they make me pitch better and they bring out the best in me."

And, of course, always on the 5-8 Stroman's mind is the commentary that accompanied much of his pitching life -- that his frame simply wasn't big enough for a pitcher, especially a righthander.

Addressing the media Sunday, Stroman had a hat with the initials HDMH (Height Doesn't Measure Heart) in front of him, and the same initials shaved on the back of his head.

"Just kind of get the message out there to every undersized athlete in the world: You don't have to be 6-foot-2, 6-foot-4, 6-foot-5 to do anything in the world," he said. "A lot of times I see young kids get discouraged solely based off their height or physical stature. And it's unfortunate, because you have a bunch of baseball analysts and all these people who preach 6-foot-4 for pitchers. I'm just here to show them that you don't have to be 6-foot-5 to go out there and be an awesome pitcher in the big leagues. Height doesn't measure heart, something I always live by."


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