The weather has been so crummy that I realize not many of you have been in Coca-Cola Field so far. Truth be told, I was a little under the weather Tuesday myself and I had to go to the video to check out a game that could have big meaning down the road in Toronto.
Marcus Stroman, the former No. 1 draft pick and stud top prospect of the Blue Jays chain, put together one of the most dominant outings in the ballpark’s history with six no-hit innings against Louisville.
Stroman struck out 10, walked one and had only one ball leave the infield all night. But with nine outs to go to make history – and after only 80 pitches – the Bisons pulled him from the game. Of course, that came on orders from the Blue Jays.
Standard practice in these situations might be to torch the parent club for the absurdity of babying young hurlers with artificial pitch counts. But at least this time the Blue Jays had a good reason. The Blue Jays are thinking about using Stroman for at least a spot start, perhaps as soon as Sunday in Pittsburgh or early next week in Philadelphia. They should do it. But they should go one step further.
Stroman’s birthday is today. He turns 23. I’ve got an idea for a gift the parent club can give: Put the kid in the rotation. Right now. He’s that good.
Stroman is only 2-2 because he’s not getting much run support. He’s got a 1.69 earned-run average and in 26∏ innings, he’s struck out 36 – an average of 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings. Perhaps most significant, he’s walked only seven. Amazing control.
I’m wracking my brain to come up with a pitcher who showed up in Buffalo and was this good this fast.
Tim Drew won eight straight decisions in 2002. Jeremy Sowers was 9-1, 1.39 in 15 starts in 2006. Bartolo Colon went 7-1, 2.22 in 10 starts in 1997 – including what still stands as the only no-hitter in Coca-Cola Field history – and has pretty much been in the big leagues ever since.
But all of them had a little time in Triple-A the previous year. If you want to throw Matt Harvey’s 2012 season at me, I’ll remind you he was just 7-5, 3.68 in 20 starts.
Stroman’s gem came on the fourth anniversary of R.A. Dickey’s “imperfect perfect game” against Durham, the one-hit masterpiece in 2010 that saw the then-journeyman knuckleballer give up a leadoff single and retire the next 27 batters.
That game, played on a frigid night in front of a couple hundred fans, became a key moment in Dickey’s autobiography as part of his meteoric rise to Cy Young winner.
We won’t know if Stroman will one day be able to wax poetic about his gem like Dickey, but it could be a similar jumping-off point. You can’t call most young starters up after one month in Triple-A, but Stroman is not your average No. 1 draft pick. Stroman is from Duke. He’s a student of the game. He’s a fast learner who’s overcome the adversity of being just 5-9. The Blue Jays were certain on three things in their rotation over the winter: R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Brandon Morrow. As it’s played out over the first month, they can only reasonably be sure bout Buehrle (4-1, 2.16 in five starts).
Dickey is just 2-3, 5.09 and Morrow is 1-2, 6.04 and coming off a horrific eight-walk outing Saturday against the Red Sox that saw him fail to get out of the third inning. No. 4 man Drew Hutchison went into his start Wednesday in Kansas City at 1-1, 3.46 but with 33 strikeouts and just nine walks and has looked good in his first stint in the big leagues after Tommy John surgery.
Dustin McGowan, a diabetic who has struggled with his stamina on the mound, wore his insulin pack during his start Tuesday in Kansas City and the bullpen blew his 5-2 lead. It was one of McGowan’s better outings, but manager John Gibbons was noncommital about McGowan’s next outing, both after and prior to Wednesday’s game.
Everyone knows why: The Blue Jays shuffled the Bisons rotation to have Stroman pitch on McGowan’s day. Uh huh.
The Blue Jays lost Ervin Santana to Atlanta in a free-agent battle late in the spring. They still have trouble at second base now that they’ve sent Ryan Goins back to the Herd and have a huge problem in their bullpen they hope will be solved when closer Casey Janssen returns from injury. They entered Wednesday just 12-14. They could use a booster shot of some sort. Stroman could be it.
The Bisons, meanwhile, are 13-10 after Wednesday’s International League off day. They open a four-game series at home tonight against Charlotte. It’s been a good first month. They are one game out of first place in the International League North and have the fifth-best record in the 14-team league. Losing Stroman would hurt. But he’s only 2-2. The Herd has other guys contributing. And putting Stroman in this position is exactly the whole point of Triple-A ball. The Jays should make a bold move and make the call.