DUNEDIN, Fla. – Marcus Stroman took a flamethrower to the tranquil opening of Toronto Blue Jays training camp, saying his desire to remain with the club is unrequited, pushing for Vladimir Guerrero Jr., to open the season in the majors and saying the veteran presence from recent years is a crucial element that’s been lost.
The lightning-rod right-hander addressed media for 20 minutes Sunday after declining to do so a day earlier following his first side session, even declining a team official’s attempt to cut short the session.
He spoke forcefully about his game, his role on the team and his passion for Toronto, expressing disappointment that he hasn’t been offered a long-term deal. As for his relationship with the front office, he replied simply, “it’s business, man. It is what it is.”
“Mentally, I’m ready to perform, wherever it may be,” he continued. “I want to play here. I’ve been wanting to play here for a long time. I’ve been waiting to sign a long-term deal. I’ve been offered nothing. There’s no one that embodies the city of Toronto more than me. And you’re not going to find guys who want to come in and embody the city of Toronto because it’s just not natural, and I’ve taken a liking to that myself, and that’s been organic and natural, it’s not something I had to do. That’s something I wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to be here.
“I want to pitch in the American League East, I want to pitch against the Yankees, I want to pitch against the Red Sox. People shy away from that, people go and hide in other leagues. I’m here. I don’t care who’s in the box. I’ll face everybody. I couldn’t care less. I think that’s the type of mantra and type of confidence the city of Toronto needs.”
An industry source subsequently refuted Stroman’s claim that he hadn’t been offered a multi-year contract, only adding to the intrigue.
Stroman said he welcomed a bigger leadership role but also lamented the lack of veterans around, crediting Jose Bautista, Mark Buehrle, Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki, Casey Janssen and Melky Cabrera for aiding in his development.
He promised to do all he can to help the new group of young players even though he feels he’s yet to reach his peak, but also added that, "I still think we just need to mix in some pieces, some moves just around the roster to kind of bolster our roster, whether it be in the ‘pen, whether it be another starter, some position players."
"I want to make sure everybody in this organization is doing everything in their power to put the best product out on the field," Stroman added later. "I want to win. I don’t like losing. I hate losing. I want it to be like ’15 and ’16. Those were the best times ever."
Asked if the front office was doing all it can to win given the moves made in the off-season, Stroman replied: "We’re going to see."
"We play against the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees and I know their rosters because I play against those rosters all the time," he continued. :"If we matchup, we matchup. But that’s not my job. I’m preparing all of us for what we have to do to go out there. Are they doing what they need to do to put the best product out on the field? At the end of the day, I only care about what’s going on in the clubhouse and I promise you those 25 guys in the clubhouse will be ready to rock."
To compete, Stroman stressed, the Blue Jays will have little margin for error, needing to lock in on every pitch and every at-bat throughout the season. Guerrero stands to be the club’s biggest offensive add once he’s spent at least 15 days in the minors to defer his free agency, and when asked if he wanted to see the phenom on the opening day roster, he flipped the question back at reporters."
"Would you?" he said eyeing the group. "I’m a pitcher, I’d love to see my guy hitting homers every inning. Yes. We’re a young team. We need to perform. And I know everybody a part of this team that we have here is doing everything they can in their power to go out there and perform. So I hope everybody in this organization is doing the same thing. I hope they’re putting us on the field with the best team possible to go out there and compete against the Yankees and the Red Sox on a consistent basis.”
“Mentally, I couldn’t care less who’s in the box, it doesn’t matter to me,” he continued, “I’m going to perform, and I’m going to dominate and I’m going to keep the same mentality throughout. I’m trying to preach that to the young guys. Like I said, they don’t have the Bautistas, the Edwins and LaTroy Hawkins to go to. Now I’m trying to balance between building and being a guy and being that veteran voice, too."