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Preview: Welcome to The Stro

Stock_Stroman02There’s a popular phrase around the sport of baseball. When you arrive at the Major Leagues, you’re greeted with a chorus of “Welcome to the Show”. For Toronto Blue Jays fans this weekend, it sounds a little different. Welcome to The Stro.

Top prospect, and highly-touted right-hander Marcus Stroman will make his first big-league start this afternoon when the first place (!) Blue Jays look to snap a mini two-game losing streak against the Kansas City Royals.

This spot was originally scheduled for Drew Hutchison, who is having a fine season in his own right. But considering he’s being slightly monitored after a year off due to Tommy John Surgery, and the fact his velocity has dipped a bit over his last 3-4 outings, I don’t hate the idea of him getting a full week off in between outings. He’ll now go Tuesday night when Toronto opens their three-game set in Detroit.

But back to Stroman. He got his feet wet in The Show earlier this month, with five relief appearances, experiencing varying results. Over his 6.1 innings, he posted a 1-0 record (which is essentially meaningless), a 12.79 ERA (which doesn’t show a whole lot), and a 2.21 WHIP (which is not very good). He struck out four, and walked just one.

I think, realistically, this was the plan for Stroman all winter. The Blue Jays want him in the rotation, and mid-to-late May always seemed to be the expected target. The decision to bring him up to pitch out of the bullpen was likely less about stats and numbers, and more about allowing him to be around a Major League clubhouse in a low-pressure situation. It’s also likely not a coincidence that he wasn’t recalled until the night before his start. Allow him to be distracted as little as possible.

Ever since this kid was drafted, I had said I wanted to be at his first home start. Unfortunately, that’ll have to wait since I’ve got another committment today. But the (hopefully) 30,000-plus fans that are at the Dome this afternoon are in for a treat.

This move leaves current fifth starter Liam Hendriks in limbo a little bit. With an off-day Monday, and Hutchison being pushed back, there really isn’t a whole lot of use for the Aussie as a starter, unless the Jays want to go with a 6-man rotation. Gibbons was asked about that possibility on Saturday, and side-stepped the issue. I think it all depends on how Stroman fares this afternoon. They were able to ride J.A. Happ for 7.2 of relatively ineffective work on Friday night, to give the bullpen a night of rest. If Stroman throws well, and Buehrle is able to give his customary seven innings tomorrow afternoon, it’s conceivable that Hendriks will be sent-down midweek, and another reliever brought up.

But no need to worry about that right now. The Stro is here! Blue Jays fans have waited almost two years for this day, and it should be a very exciting one for everybody involved. And strangely, there’s been a lot to be excited about around this team lately.

Here’s this afternoon’s starting lineup:

Blue Jays 05/31 (32-24)
OBP HR RBI
SS 7 Jose Reyes .320 3 15
LF 53 Melky Cabrera .352 8 29
RF 19 Jose Bautista .438 14 39
DH 10 Edwin Encarnacion .347 18 48
1B 26 Adam Lind .422 3 13
3B 13 Brett Lawrie .279 8 28
3B 47 Juan Francisco .347 9 20
C 30 Dioner Navarro .310 2 21
CF 8 Anthony Gose .431 0 3
WHIP W – L K/BB
P 54 Marcus Stroman 2.21 1 – 0 4/1

They’re taking on right-hander Aaron Brooks, who has appeared in just one game this season. In his lone outing against Detroit, he gave up 6 ER on 7 H in just 2 innings. So this is a great opportunity for the Jays to give Stroman some support.

I’ve got a good feeling about this one! There’s still a chance for Toronto to finish this homestand 8-2, which would be pretty fantastic.

As always, don’t forget to follow @jaysbalk.

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