The expectations are pretty high for Marcus Stroman. That’s why the praise is muted when evaluating his Opening Day outing.
Stroman was effective. He had good movement on his pitches. He threw hard and his change-up was solid.
In his Triple-A debut the 22-year old Stroman gave up two runs on four hits in four innings of work, setting the tone for the Buffalo Bisons in a 6-3 win over the Rochester Red Wings on Thursday at Coca-Cola Field.
About 8,000 of the 11,042 announced crowd came out for the chilly, but dry, start to the 2014 baseball season. They saw Stroman strike out his first two batters. The next two Red Wings’ batters got on base via error and hit before Stroman struck out his third of the inning.
In all he finished with four strikeouts. On a strict 80-pitch limit, he came out of the game after throwing 73 pitches, 47 for strikes.
“I was happy with it,” Stroman said of his outing. “It was good to get back out there, especially my first start. I was just happy with the way I threw. I thought I threw the ball pretty well, kept the ball down for the most part. I feel like I executed pitches in big spots.”
“It wasn’t bad,” Bisons manager Gary Allenson said of Stroman’s performance. “He did better than their guy.”
Their guy was Rochester starter Scott Diamond who gave up five runs, four of them earned, on six hits in just two innings.
The Herd spotted Stroman a 4-0 lead after the first inning, scoring all those runs with two outs. Singles by Andy LaRoche and Chris Getz scored runs, while a two-run hit from Mike Nickeas doubled the lead.
But Stroman walked the leadoff batter in the second and gave up two hits, including a two-run single to Darin Mastroianni, which cut the lead to 4-2.
And it was the walk that bothered Stroman the most.
“The walk was a borderline pitch,” Stroman said. “It was down. That’s something I’ve been kind of preaching and working on in practice is keeping the ball down. Just leadoff walks always come back to hurt you. You try to stay away from that for the most part.
“For the most part I felt good with my entire outing. My pitches felt well and I thought I attacked the strike zone pretty well.”
Allenson sees major league talent in Stroman, a first-round draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2012 and the organization’s No. 2 rated prospect. That’s why he’s a bit harder on Stroman – to keep him focused and force the pitcher to keep his edge.
“I always like to criticize Marcus,” Allenson said. “He’s got good stuff. He’s going to be a good big-league pitcher. He has a tendency to fiddle around with hitters a little bit too much. … I would like to see Marcus get more outs where he does it in three pitches or less. A nice little ground ball early in the count. He has a tendency to go deep in the count with hitters too much.”
Stroman gave up a lead-off hit in the third and then with two outs a pitch got away from him up and inside, hitting Wilkin Ramierz in his hands. But then he retired the next four batters to end his outing.
“There’s always room for improvement,” Stroman said. “Definitely no walks. That’s something I’ve always prided myself on is keeping my walks at a bare minimum. So no walks, continuing to pound the strike zone and definitely throw my change-up more. I feel like I had pretty good success with my change-up today so definitely throw that pitch more and that’s pretty much it. Just go out there and compete and get after it.”