ARLINGTON, Texas – As the Blue Jays trek to Boston after taking two out of three from the Rangers, Marcus Stroman will be catching a different flight.
For the 23-year-old it's destination, Buffalo. Stroman was optioned back to the Bisons and will pick up there where he left off at the time of his recall on May 4, in the starting rotation.
He's got a 1.69 ERA and a miniscule 1.088 WHIP in five starts for Buffalo this season and while he's disappointed to be leaving behind charter flights and five star hotels for the rigours of a bus, he's glad to return to the routine he knows best.
"I want to be a starter 100-percent," said Stroman. "That's the role I thought I was going to be in when I came up here. I think in the long run hopefully I can be a starter and show that I can start at this level. That's the plan."
Stroman made five relief appearances for the Blue Jays, two of which were in high-leverage situations. He thrived in an inning and a third of work on May 6 in Philadelphia, preserving a 5-5 tie to the 10th and picking up his first career major league victory. In the other, he struggled, relieving Drew Hutchison in the fifth inning of a May 11 loss to the Angels, in which he entered trailing 3-1 but left down 7-1.
"First go around, there were a couple of outings where he was really good and a couple of outings where he struggled and gave up some hits," said manager John Gibbons. "But he's like anybody else, you feel your way around, get your feet wet, and when it comes down to it you have to make pitches, quality pitches. When you make mistakes, you leave balls up in the zone, hang breaking balls, at this level they don't miss them."
With Dustin McGowan returned to the bullpen, where he thrived last season, the Blue Jays will next need a body for McGowan's turn in the rotation on Saturday, at home against Oakland. Stroman is ineligible because, as a player on option to the minor leagues, he's required to spend 10 days there before a recall. That's the paperwork end of it.
The real life part of the equation is that he needs to get his arm stretched back out. It's a lot to ask of a guy to make his first major league start against one of baseball's best teams having not worked deep into a game for the better part of a month.
It's clear what Stroman wants to be doing when his eventual return to the Blue Jays becomes reality. He hedged when asked if he would have preferred to remain in Buffalo until such time Toronto was ready to put him in the rotation.
"It's hard to say. It's hard to say," said Stroman. "Obviously whatever opportunity you get to contribute at the big-league level you want to jump on it and go. But I've been groomed as a starter for the past year and a half so it's hard saying otherwise. It's tough but you take it in stride and see what happens."
As for who will make Saturday's start against the Athletics, the Jays' options off the current roster are thin. Todd Redmond would be the guy.
More likely is either Sean Nolin, a lefthander who made his major league debut and was hit hard in a game last May against Baltimore, or Liam Hendriks, a spring-time waiver claim pickup from the Orioles who's a noted strike thrower but has had little success at the big league level spread over parts of three seasons with the Twins.
Hendriks is 5-0 with a 1.48 ERA for the Bisons in seven starts. General manager Alex Anthopoulos was in attendance for his most recent start, a seven inning performance in which he allowed one run but got a no-decision.
For his big league career, Hendriks, 25, is 2-13 with a 6.06 ERA and a 5.31 FIP. A control pitcher, Hendriks doesn't walk many hitters but his 1.590 WHIP reflects the 202 hits he's allowed in 156 innings.