Even as trade rumours about his potential suitors surface daily, he still plays for the Blue Jays.
"The young talent wave is here and it’s awesome."
He likes where he plays, too. Remember that tattoo of the Toronto skyline? And now it’s summer. There’s lots to enjoy.
"The people. The vibe. The patio season."
But Stroman also sounds like someone who misses pitching in a pennant race. That’s something the 34-57 Blue Jays can’t offer now.
Seated beside his fellow all-stars in a Cleveland convention centre Monday, Stroman took all manner of questions. Some were light-hearted (what do you think about Kawhi’s decision?), and others focused on Stroman’s Dior t-shirt, HDMH-branded necklace and sizable gold watch (asked by a kid reporter whether he’s the best-dressed all-star, Stroman said "I don’t want to throw any shots out, but I think I am").
Most of all, though, the questions focused on the possibility of a trade. And yes, now that you mention it, Stroman does have interest in returning to the playoffs.
"2015 and 2016 were some of the best times of my life," he said, recalling the Blue Jays’ ALCS runs. "Pitching in those times, that’s why you play this game. That’s the moment you play it for is to play in those pressure situations where you kind of have to thrive, where people are counting on you. Like I said, I never shy away in those moments."
If a contender trades for Stroman, what kind of player would they be getting?
"Extremely passionate. Extremely competitive," he said. "Obviously I want the ball each and every moment. Scared of nobody. I’m ready for any moment there is. I don’t think there’s any moment that’s too big that I can’t take in and deal and compete. I love the spotlight."
Before the all-star break, Stroman missed a start with a left pectoral strain. He said he’s now feeling better physically and expects to throw a bullpen Friday. By Sunday, when he’s scheduled to start against the Yankees, he plans to be ‘out there throwing rockets.’
But when a New York-based writer asked Stroman if he’d prefer to play in New York, where he grew up, Stroman stayed on message.
"It’s all hearsay at this point," he said. "I’d never want to get too caught up in being focused on wanting to go anywhere because at the end of the day it’s out of my control. I’m very comfortable where I’m at and just trying to enjoy the moment."
OK, but if you’re traded to the Yankees, would pitching in a market like New York prove challenging?
"Not at all," Stroman said. "I’m consistent now. I know where I’m at. My mental, my mindset going forward is not going to change, so I don’t think that’s going to be anything that deters me or throws me off. I have my people — my family, my friends — that I keep very close to and I don’t think going to any city could throw me off my nature."
As for the rumours, he tries to tune those out. Until someone tells him otherwise, he pitches for the Blue Jays.
"It just it what it is," he said. "It doesn’t change what I’m doing in the moment. It doesn’t change the fact that I’m trying to go out there to win as many games as I can for the Toronto Blue Jays. I truly do love playing for the organization and the country, so I’m really focused in on the moment and whatever happens happens. That’s really the mantra that I’m living by right now."
On that front, Stroman has help from his friends and family, who have helped him tune out reports and speculation even as the July 31 deadline approaches. He attributes some of his success on the field to ‘limiting the noise’ around him. He said he focuses on his mental approach ‘just as much’ as his physical preparation.
Thanks to that work away from the field, he can get away from baseball when he needs an escape.
"We truly don’t even speak about baseball when I’m away from the field," Stroman said. "I’ve been really good with that mentally, just trying to reset and lock it in when I need to."
"It’s a good balance," he continued. "It can be overwhelming this game if you take your bad starts with you back home… It’s stable and I’m able to really detach when I need to. I feel really clear and I’m excited for the future."
Barring a late reversal or injury setback, that future doesn’t appear to be in Toronto. And as hard as Stroman works to tune out rumours, he’s as aware as anyone that his tenure with the Blue Jays will likely end within weeks.