TORONTO — In what’s very likely his final month in a Toronto Blue Jays uniform, Marcus Stroman is heading to his first All-Star Game.
Thanks to a stingy 3.18 ERA across 18 starts, the ninth-best qualified mark in the American League, it’s a well-deserved nod for the 28-year-old, who was somewhat justifiably miffed back in 2017 when he was left off the team.
Not this time.
“It definitely brought tears to my eyes when he first told me,” said Stroman, who was called into manager Charlie Montoyo’s office prior to Sunday’s game to get the good news.
“It’s amazing. Definitely one of the bright spots in my career. To come from where I came from last year, having the worst year I’ve had, battling injuries, I made it such a premium in the off-season to do everything I can to get back. I think it’s just a testament to everybody around me. My family, my friends, I think we all operate as one unit and it’s an awesome time for all of us.”
Stroman’s first trip to the Midsummer Classic, which goes July 9 at Progressive Field in Cleveland, comes as trade rumours continue to swirl around the athletic right-hander, and there’s no shortage of suitors.
The New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins and Atlanta Braves have all been rumoured to be in the mix, while the San Diego Padres and Houston Astros have also been mentioned.
With another year of team control to go, Stroman is one of the top starting pitching options on the market, especially with the consistency he’s shown this season in his 104.2 innings pitched.
In 18 starts, Stroman has allowed more than three earned runs just three times. In 10 of those starts, he’s allowed two or less runs, giving his rebuilding club a chance to win every fifth day.
The problem, however, has been run support, which has led to his 5-9 record.
“I like where my innings total is at, that’s kind of something I always look at,” Stroman said. “I’m halfway to where I want to be. I’m around 100 innings and my goal is always to be at 200 innings by the end of the year. I truly feel that if you pitch deep into games, everything else kind of takes care of itself. I’m not someone who goes out there and tries to strike out the world. I try to pitch deep into games and help my team.”
If there’s a snub on the Blue Jays’ roster this time around, it’s in the bullpen, where closer Ken Giles has been one of the best relievers in baseball, posting a minuscule 1.29 ERA and 12 saves over the first three months of the season.
The righty has struck out 49 batters in just 28 innings and issued just eight walks.
Giles, too, is the subject of trade rumours and is very likely to be on the move alongside Stroman over the next month.
Stroman will be joined in Ohio by 20-year-old Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who’ll compete in Monday’s Home Run Derby, an event his father won back in 2007 in San Francisco by beating Blue Jays outfielder Alex Rios in the final.
Pitching to Vladdy Jr., the youngest player ever to compete in the event, will be his former Double-A manager and current Jays major-league coach John Schneider.
“It was an invitation, of course, and I wanted to do it,” Guerrero Jr. said through a translator. “They called me and I just said, ‘yes.’”
The last Blue Jay to take part was Josh Donaldson, who hit 18 total homers at the 2015 derby inside Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.
Justin Smoak, who went to his first All-Star Game in 2017, had some advice for Guerrero.
“How many breaks do they get?” Smoak asked with a wry grin. “It’s going to wear him out. I mean, I witnessed it just watching it and the guys were beat. What do they hit for three minutes? Four minutes? Whatever it is, it’s rapid fire. I think Schneider’s throwing to him. Hopefully, Schneider can take a breather, too.”