Marcus Stroman didn't have much to get excited about Saturday -- just his second start at Yankee Stadium pitching to childhood idol Derek Jeter in front of family and friends from Medford.
There also was a little extra heat from his previous start in Baltimore, where he drew a six-game suspension for allegedly throwing a pitch at the head of the Orioles' Caleb Joseph.
Only Stroman's appeal of the suspension allowed him to take the mound Saturday at the Stadium. He made the most of the opportunity, pitching six innings in the Blue Jays' 6-3 win to move his rookie record to 11-6.
Stroman said he's been through "a lot worse in my life" than the suspension and was able to put it out of his mind, but he was "thankful" for the opportunity to pitch near home.
"I'm from New York,'' the former Patchogue-Medford star said, "and any time I can have a bunch of family and friends come out for a game, the kind of people who were there with me coming up through the minors and who were with me my whole life, means a lot to me. I'm glad I was able to make this start."
The moment was a little too big for Stroman when he made his fourth big-league start June 17 at the Stadium and lasted only 32/3 innings in a loss. It's a sign of his rapid maturation process that he handled everything the Yankees and a sellout crowd of 47,292 could throw at him Saturday.
"That's what you live for," he said. "That's why you play the game is to kind of be here -- Jeter in a packed house, fans screaming. It was an awesome environment to play baseball in."
Well, it was awesome until Brett Gardner led off with a double into the leftfield corner. That brought Jeter to the plate and the fans to their feet cheering, as they do for every at-bat for an icon in the final days of his career. Jeter struck out looking, leaning out over the plate on a fastball he thought was outside, and he let plate umpire Scott Barry know about it before heading to the dugout.
Asked where he might file that moment in his memory bank, Stroman said, "It's up there. It's definitely up there because he's probably the best shortstop that's ever played. It's probably one of my greatest moments for sure. The fact that I can strike him out his last year in the big leagues is definitely special."
Comparing Stroman's first Stadium start to his second, manager John Gibbons said, "That's natural the first time you pitch in Yankee Stadium and you're from New York. Something's wrong with you if you're not a little bit uptight. But he showed what he was all about today."
The Jays staked Stroman to a 1-0 lead in the first, but he gave up two-out RBI singles to Brian McCann in the third and Francisco Cervelli in the fourth.
By the end of that inning, Stroman's pitch count was at 82. But Gibbons had faith in the 5-9 righthander because he has shown the strength to maintain his velocity in the mid-90s throughout his starts.
"I was pretty high," Stroman said, "but going into the sixth, I knew I had an opportunity to have a quick inning and be in line for the 'W.' "
His day ended with 107 pitches. He allowed eight hits, walked none and struck out seven.
It's possible Stroman will have one more start if he drops his appeal, but it will be hard to top the crowning moment of his rookie season at Yankee Stadium.
"It was special being from here and watching Jeter while I was growing up," Stroman said. "I definitely rank it pretty high."