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LI’s Marcus Stroman has had plenty to deal with lately

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman delivers

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman delivers a pitch against the Yankees during the game at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 30, 2017. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

TORONTO — Above all else, Marcus Stroman loves to prove the skeptics wrong. It’s part of what drives him. So to question his readiness for Sunday’s showdown with the Yankees at Rogers Centre might be a mistake, even after what can only be described as a tumultuous few months leading into the regular season.

In February, Stroman had to deal with the sting of his arbitration loss to the Blue Jays, a contentious process that often creates bad feelings between player and team. In Stroman’s case, the Jays battled their ace over a difference of $400,000, and he wound up with their lesser figure of $6.5 million for this year.

The other personal hurdle involved a bout of shoulder inflammation that delayed his spring training preparation and cost him a shot at the Opening Day assignment. As a result, Stroman made only two starts against major-league teams, but he still was green-lighted for Sunday’s series finale with the Yankees.

So there’s been plenty to deal with for the former Patchogue-Medford star as he begins his fifth season, and maybe that helps explain why Stroman declined to discuss his upcoming debut a day earlier. Stroman said he had been through a lot during spring training and was too busy getting ready.

It seems that Stroman has kept a lower media profile since his arbitration case — aside from his active Twitter account (@MStrooo6) — but that could have been due to an extended rehab process. The biggest mystery now is what he’ll give the Blue Jays despite his abbreviated spring training, which included a total of only 7 1⁄3 innings split between the Phillies and Cardinals.

The longest of those two starts came Monday in Montreal during an exhibition game against the Cardinals at Olympic Stadium. Stroman struck out six in 4 2⁄3 innings and allowed three hits, including a home run by Marcell Ozuna.

He’ll have some serious sluggers on Sunday’s agenda, but Jays manager John Gibbons saw enough positives in his last outing to have faith in Stroman.

“You never know for sure,” Gibbons said. “What I feel good about, though, is I thought he looked really good the other night in Montreal. Normally when guys are behind a little bit, they’re not as sharp, but he was sticking it pretty good with all his pitches. So that eased my mind a little bit.

“Even though it’s the first series of the year, he always seems to rise to the occasion when we need something. That’s all I know.”

Stroman is 6-4 with a 3.19 ERA in 13 career starts against the Yankees. He’s limited them to a .228 batting average and .647 OPS but never has faced anything quite as imposing as this Giancarlo Stanton-infused version.

For an adrenaline-charged pitcher like Stroman who gets amped up on the mound, his stamina could be a factor after a compressed spring training regimen.

“We’ll probably keep an eye on him a little more than the other ones,” Gibbons said. “But he’s a ground-ball guy too, so he can minimize his pitches by that, if he’s on. We’ll just play it by ear.”

New York Sports