CLEVELAND — With Marcus Stroman likely next to leave Toronto, the Blue Jays’ lone All-Star and potential trade target of the Yankees, offered some advice Monday to his adopted city regarding the defection of NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who bolted Canada for L.A. last week.
“You can’t knock Kawhi,” Stroman said from his podium at the All-Star Game’s media day. “You have to live in the moment and be thankful for the championship.”
Stroman has subscribed to that same philosophy with the July 31 trade deadline fast approaching, and his name constantly circulating in conversations about the Yankees. The former Patchogue-Medford star insists that he’s cut himself off from baseball news on his social-media feeds, a strategy that’s helped deliver the type of season that should allow the Blue Jays to find a suitable return for him this month.
As far as the Yankees go, Stroman could be the perfect fit, both for his familiarity with the AL East and unshakeable composure on the big stage. Brian Cashman saw that in J.A. Happ a year ago when he pried the lefthander from the Jays, then later signed him in December to a two-year, $34 million deal. Stroman repeatedly stated his affection for Toronto when asked about potentially landing in the Bronx, but it’s in his DNA to be attracted to the big stage — and succeed on it.
“I think I’ve showed that,” Stroman said. “I’m extremely passionate, I’m extremely competitive and I’m scared of nobody. I love the spotlight. I’m ready for whatever the future holds.”
Not exactly Sonny Gray 2.0 when it comes to New York, and Gray himself proved Cashman right by pitching his way to the All-Star Game this season — once he left the Bronx for Cincinnati. One of Cashman’s most difficult challenges in recruiting midseason help, with an eye toward October, is figuring out who can handle the extra scrutiny involved with wearing pinstripes.
“I don’t think that going to any city would throw me off,” Stroman said.
So far, Stroman has shrugged off the early spring-training talk about his uncertain Toronto future to earn his first All-Star trip, although what’s been described as a left pectoral cramp is preventing him from pitching in Tuesday’s Midsummer Classic. Stroman has a 3.18 ERA in 18 starts — well below his 3.81 career mark — with a 1.261 WHIP, averaging nearly six innings for the rebuilding Jays.
Stroman was scratched from his final first-half start, but he believes his issue should be solved with rest over the break. His plan is to throw a bullpen session Friday, when the Jays open a three-game series in the Bronx, then take his turn in the rotation for the finale.
“Hopefully I’ll be throwing rockets on Sunday,” Stroman said.
Even though Stroman won’t be taking the mound at Progressive Field, this could be a productive trip from a pitching standpoint. Since he likes to tinker with different ways to manipulate the baseball, Stroman planned to talk to a few fellow All-Stars about some useful tips.
“I’ll pick up a grip or two and use them Sunday against the Yankees,” Stroman said.
That figures to be another audition, and if truly healthy by then, it’s probably one of his last starts for the Blue Jays, who selected him 22nd overall in the 2012 draft. Stroman didn’t know anything about the city when he first arrived, but has grown to love it since. Still, he’s accepted his situation. He’s prepared to move on, while trying to tune out the other stuff.
“I’m limiting the noise,” Stroman said. “Just staying focused.”
Living in the moment, wherever that next one may take place.