Fisher Cats' Marcus Stroman making up for lost time
At 5 feet, 9 inches, Marcus Stroman says he knew his prospects of a professional career weren’t strong in his favorite sport, basketball. Baseball was another matter.
“My dad always said I could go far in baseball,” he recalled in a phone interview while en route from Richmond, Va., to Manchester on Sunday. “Call it cocky, call it confidence. I’ve never accepted the notion I’m an under-sized athlete. I don’t accept that stereotype, and that’s why I have a chip on my shoulder. When people say I can’t pitch in the majors, it just fuels me more to prove them wrong.”
These days, it may be hard to find someone who doubts Stroman is on his way to the big leagues.
Scheduled to start against the Bowie Bay Sox in the opener of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats’ six-game homestand tonight at 7:05, Stroman is coming off a month of dominance over Eastern League batters.
A 22-year-old right-hander ranked among the top prospects in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, he struck out 55 in 40 July innings, the most of any pitcher in professional baseball. Twenty-six of those strikeouts came in his first and last starts of the month — 13 in each, matching the franchise record set by Gustavo Chacin in 2004.
At 6-2 with a 2.96 ERA in 14 overall starts this season, Stroman actually began heating up before July arrived. In his last 10 games, the Medford, N.Y., native and 2012 first-round draft pick out of Duke University is 5-1 with a 2.21 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 61 innings.
Stroman said he’s learned about pitch selection from Fisher Cats catcher Jack Murphy, his regular batterymate.
“We’re always talking about what to throw on different hitters’ counts,” Stroman said. “He’s the one who encouraged me to pitch inside, something I didn’t do much in college.”
A fastball, curve, cutter and change-up are in Stroman’s arsenal. Lately, if he’s ahead 0-2 or 1-2 in the count, he’s been lights out.
“Putting a hitter away early is my goal,” he said.
His recent streak of success has all but erased a bad ending to last season, when he was suspended 50 games for testing positive for Methylhexaneamine, a banned stimulant, not long after his promotion from short-season Single-A Vancouver to Double-A Manchester. That was a major setback for Stroman, whom the Blue Jays had drafted with the overall No. 22 selection and given a $1.8 million signing bonus.
He says his family got him through a difficult time.
“They knew it was an honest mistake and that I hadn’t done anything major,” said Stroman. “They told me to keep my head down for a while, stay quiet and keep working. They told me things would get better. The way I look at it, it turned out to be a blessing. I stayed focused and worked on all of my four pitches until my suspension was up. I came back a stronger person and a better pitcher from it.”
The suspension delayed the start of this season for Stroman, but he’s more than made up for lost time.
SERIES MATCHUPS: Stroman is one of several pitching attractions during the three-game series with Bowie. After he faces left-hander Jake Pettit (5-5, 4.85), the Fisher Cats’ co-ace, left Sean Nolin (7-3, 2.94), goes up against one of the Orioles’ top prospects, righty Mike Wright (9-2, 3.59) in a 12:05 matinee on Wednesday. Then, in a 7:05 p.m. game on Thursday, Kyle Drabek makes his first start in New Hampshire since going 14-9 with a 2.94 ERA for the Fisher Cats in 2010.
Rehabbing from 2012 Tommy John surgery, Drabek started for the Fishers in Richmond on Monday and pitched four strong innings, allowing a solo home run but no other hits and striking out three.
Richmond follows Bowie into Northeast Delta Dental Stadium later this week, with 7:05 p.m. games on Friday and Saturday, and a 3:05 p.m. finish to the homestand on Sunday.