Blue Jays, Stroman emerge from arbitration with relationship unscathed

Toronto-Blue-Jays;-Marcus-Stroman

Toronto Blue Jays bench coach DeMarlo Hale, left, jokes around with Marcus Stroman. (Nathan Denette/CP)

•Stroman’s arbitration case nothing like the Betances ordeal
•Normal off-season has Stroman feeling 100 per cent
•Stroman thinks Blue Jays have baseball’s best starting rotation

DUNEDIN, Fla. – The risk in taking a player to arbitration is that emotions can spin out of control, the way they did over the weekend when the New York Yankees needlessly entered into a wild and acrimonious war of words with three-time all-star Dellin Betances.

Marcus Stroman took note and appreciates that his case with the Toronto Blue Jays – in which he was awarded his ask of $3.4 million over the team’s offer of $3.1 million – didn’t end up anywhere near as messy.

"It’s unfortunate how it’s being handled over there," Stroman said Monday in his first media session of the spring. "I’m pretty good friends with Dellin Betances, and you never want to see anyone go through that. But it’s baseball, arbitration is something you have to go through if there’s no agreement, and it’s something you have to deal with."

Betances has certainly dealt with a lot since being awarded the Yankees’ $3 million offer rather than his $5 million ask. Yankees president Randy Levine called a news conference afterwards and said one of the game’s top set-up men was a "victim" of his agency’s attempt to reshape the arbitration market for non-closers for seeking closer money.

Levine then likened Betances’ ask to him claiming that "I’m not the president of the Yankees, I’m an astronaut. I’m not an astronaut and Dellin Betances is not a closer based on statistics."

Plenty of back-and-forth followed.

Asked if something was said during his hearing that bothered him, Stroman replied concisely: "It’s just part of the process."

But there’s been no public bile or acrimony whatsoever from the Blue Jays’ end, and given the relatively minor gap between ask and offer, Stroman agreed with a suggestion that the process was win-win for him.

"Yeah, definitely looked at it that way," he said. "It’s just part of the process, part of the business, no hard feelings towards anyone in any case. The Blue Jays handled their business extremely professionally, and it’s just something you have to go through."

Arbitration now behind him, Stroman can be solely focused on building upon his first full season in the majors, when he posted a career-high 204 innings over 32 starts while logging another 11.1 frames during the post-season.

“It’s just part of the process, part of the business, no hard feelings towards anyone in any case. The Blue Jays handled their business extremely professionally, and it’s just something you have to go through.”

To that end, he emphasized how strong he feels physically, with no ill-effects from the massive jump in workload.

"I take unbelievable care of my body," said Stroman. "I pride myself on that, I’m 5-foot-7, but that’s something that I’m very confident in is my body and what I’m able to do out there. I’m pretty sure I can go out there and throw 200, 220, 240, I feel like I can do that year-in, and year-out, that’s the goal, as well as being dominating each and every outing."

Helping on that front is that Stroman said the left knee he tore up two springs ago is completely 100 per cent, benefiting from a proper off-season of work. He couldn’t enjoy a normal off-season after the 2015 season because of the way he sped through his return from the injury.

"Everyone forgets I came back in five months from a full ACL surgery," said Stroman. "I had to stop my rehab to come back and pitch for September and the playoffs (in 2015). I had to re-amp my rehab and start it back up in the off-season, so it’s not the ideal process you want to go through (for an) ACL rehab. This year, I feel 100 per cent."

Manager John Gibbons appreciates the confidence, but believes the changes Stroman made mid-season in refining his delivery and honing his repertoire will be pivotal. After a run of games so tough that speculation began about a possible demotion to triple-A, Stroman eliminated a pump of his hands to his ear at the beginning of the windup.

The cleaner mechanics allowed him to consistently drive his sinker down, and generate a sharper break on his cutter/slider, something he rode to a solid finish and a start in the wild-card game against Baltimore.

"One of the big things at this level, when individuals think they’re good, that’s a big part of it," said Gibbons.

Stroman not only believes he’s good, but thinks the same of a rotation that also includes Aaron Sanchez, Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ and Francisco Liriano, a group which led the American League in rotation ERA last year by nearly half-a-run over Cleveland (3.64-4.08).

"I think we have the best rotation in baseball, hands down," said Stroman. "I’ll argue that day-in, day-out. We weren’t valued at all coming into spring training (last year), everyone had a bunch of question marks. But we knew what we were capable of, one-through-five, we were extremely strong, each and every guy I consider pretty much an ace and can get us a win every day. That’s the mentality we have."

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