DUNEDIN, Fla – Marcus Stroman knows more than most about pitching with emotion, but his perspective on the issue is anything but irrational.
Minutes after holding the Boston Red Sox bats silent into the fifth inning, the 24-year-old convincingly defended teammate Jose Bautista, reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper and anyone else who dares show emotion on a baseball field.
Stroman met with media members wearing a ‘Joey Flippin Bats’ t-shirt – a clear show of support for Bautista the day after Hall of Fame closer Goose Gossage called the Toronto Blue Jays right-fielder a “f—ing disgrace” to baseball.
“That’s my brother, man,” Stroman said of Bautista. “That’s my guy. I’ll back him up about anything. He’s one of my role models. He’s one of my mentors. He’s taken me under his wing from day one and I see what he does on and off the field with how he trains and how he goes about his business and he does it professionally and he works harder than anyone in the league. I’m a huge fan of Joey Bats. I think you have to adapt to the times.”
Stroman often shows emotion on the mound, pumping his fist or pointing at teammates after big moments. So he disagrees when the likes of Gossage suggest players need to tone it down. Count Stroman among those who agree when Harper says baseball needs energy, not conformity.
“I’m pretty emotional out there,” Stroman said. "I have a lot to prove, so I’m going to continue to be emotional, regardless of what anybody says. It’s something I pride myself on.”
"I’m a huge supporter of Bryce,” he continued. "I talked to him last night and I told him that I respect and I agree with everything that he said. I’m 100 per cent certain that he’s accurate in the comments he made. That’s just how it is. We have a young wave of guys in the big leagues and the game’s getting really exciting. It’s fun.”
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Like Stroman, Bautista provided a calm, measured response that undermines Gossage’s argument. Both rejected the idea that players should conform to pre-set notions of how to behave on the field.
"It's kind of hard to just go about everything, especially exciting things, and just sit there with a poker face like nothing's happening,” Bautista said Thursday. "I don't even think that's in human nature."
Stroman was scheduled to pitch four innings Friday, but he was more efficient than expected, so the Blue Jays sent him out for the fifth. In total he pitched 4.2 innings, allowing three hits with no walks and four strikeouts. With a fastball that sat in the 91-94 mph range and a wide array of breaking pitches, the right-hander shut down a Red Sox lineup consisting mostly of big-leaguers.
He hopes to make a habit of logging more innings than expected.
“I want to go as deep as I can each and every game,” he said. "Put the boys in a position to win. I’m looking to go nine a lot this year. Anything I can to keep that efficiency up and keep my pitch count low, I’m going to do.”
One year and one day after tearing his ACL, Stroman’s looking forward to the challenge of his first full MLB season.
“It’s the biggest blessing in disguise I’ve ever had,” he said. "I feel great. I can’t put into words how strong I feel with my pitches and I’m just excited to get to opening day.”
Between now and then, he’ll likely make four starts, building up his pitch count from 60 to 100 over that time. Don’t be surprised if he shows some emotion along the way.
“Everyone’s not the same,” Stroman said. "Everyone’s not cookie cutter. People go about their business differently. Some guys are emotional. Some guys aren’t, but it’s not a bad thing if guys are emotional. If they show a little emotion that’s not bad. We put in a ton of work, so we are allowed to show emotion out there on the field. I’ll back that every single day."