Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Stroman, In Start of Yankees Tenure, "Comfortable" & In "Command," Boone Says


Marcus Stroman firing one in to Josh Bell in the first inning on Wednesday night. Photo by Jason Schott.

When Marcus Stroman joined the Yankees in the offseason, there was what could be described as cautious optimism, as he certainly is one of the most recognizable pitchers in baseball, but one not afraid of the spotlight and all that it brings.

Even though he has only been with the Yankees for two months, Yankees Manager Aaron Boone sees someone who has fit in well with the Bronx Bombers, and, along with the rest of their rotation, has stepped up in place of ace of Gerrit Cole.

On Wednesday, in his pre-game press conference before Stroman pitched against the Miami Marlins, Boone was asked what he has learned about Stroman that he did not know from facing him as an opponent, and he said, “I’ve looked first to seeing him every day, and I’ve been just completely - you know, I heard about his work ethic and his routine, and that he was, you know, very detailed and specific about how he goes about things, and, you know, how he takes care of his body, how he prepares, how he works, so we’ve seen all that, but I’ve also seen a guy that just seems very comfortable in our room, and it’s a credit to him, it’s a credit to the guys in our clubhouse. You know, I feel like, even though we’ve only known him now for a couple months, I do feel like he’s gotten very close and comfortable with everyone in our room and within our organization, and it’s fun to be around him.”

The Medford, New York, native, has put together a ten-year Major League career since he debuted with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2014. he pitched there until 2019, when he made the All-Star team. His best season with the Jays was in 2017 when he went 13-9 with a 3.09 ERA and in his five-plus seasons with Toronto, he went 47-45 with a 3.76 ERA. 

Stroman, 32, was traded to the Mets at the trade deadline in 2019, and after sitting out the pandemic 2020 season, pitched a fill season in Queens in '21 before spending the past two seasons with the Chicago Cubs. 

The right-hander was an All-Star in 2023, as he went 10-9 with a 3.95 earned run average (ERA), with nine of those wins coming in the first half of the season. He threw 136.2 innings pitched, and allowed 60 earned runs (68 overall) on 120 hits, including just nine home runs, and 52 walks, with 119 strikeouts, and he had a complete game shutout, in 27 games (25 starts).

Among Major League pitchers in 2023 with at least 100.0 innings pitched, Stroman ranked second in groundball percentage (58.4) and home runs allowed per nine innings (0.59), eight in opponents' slugging percentage (.335) and 12th in opponents' OPS at .640.

In his nine-year career, Stroman's record through 2023, is 77-76 with a 3.65 ERA, as he has thrown 1,303.2 innings pitched, and allowed 529 earned runs (591 overall), 1,257 hits, 376 walks, 120 home runs, while striking out 1,091.

Stroman made his debut with the Yankees in their third game of the season in Houston on March 30. In the Yankees 5-3 win over the Astros, he went six innings, and allowed just three runs, all unearned, on four this and two walks, with four strikeouts.

Then, last Friday, he had the honor of being the starter for the Yankees' home opener, and he threw six shutout innings against the powerful Toronto Blue Jays lineup, as he scattered just three hits and a walk, with 4 K's, in a game Toronto would eventually win 3-0.

Boone, in his pregame press conference on Wednesday, was asked about what he saw with Stroman’s pitches in his first two starts, and he said, “Command. I’ve talked about it in his first two starts, you know, you look up at the board and it’s very close strike-to-ball (ratio), which at first thought, you wouldn’t think lends itself to command, but it’s exactly what it is. He’s on the edges, or just off, you know, one pitch tends to set up another. Feel like he’s just been, he’s gone out there with really good plans of attack, but execution’s been excellent.”

On Wednesday night, Stroman worked around a walk to Josh Bell in the first inning, while striking out Jake Burger and getting Jazz Chisholm Jr. to bounce out to end the frame. Then, in the second, he allowed a walk to Jesus Sanchez, who proceeded to steal second base. Then, Tim Anderson, formerly of the Chicago White Sox who brawled with the dearly departed Yankee Josh Donaldson a couple years ago, flew out to right field, and Sanchez, for some reason, ran right for third, and was doubled up easily. Bryan De La Cruz struck out to end the eventful inning.

The third was where Stroman began to lose command, starting with a walk of Nick Gordon and then Nick Fortes singled. The lineup then turned over, and Luis Arraez hit a grounder that hugged the grass and went into left field to bring in Gordon and make it 1-0 Miami. Josh Bell then struck out looking for the first out.

Jake Burger, who entered this one with two home runs and 12 RBI (one ribbie per game), and he crushed one to right-center field for a three-run homer, and just like that the Marlins were up 4-0.

Marcus Stroman looks on as Jake Burger is about to touch home plate. Photo by Jason Schott.

Marlins starter Ryan Weathers made it stand up, as he threw five shutout innings, scattering just three hits and three walks, with a strikeout. 

Stroman also went five innings, as he allowed those four runs (all earned) on four hits and four walks, with seven strikeouts.

Boone said of Stroman's performance after the game, "Just thought, like, he had a hard time getting real good in his delivery. I thought he actually got it kind of rectified it a little bit there in the fourth and the fifth, kind of settled in. First three innings for him, just  a little out of rhythm, didn't have, I think, that great feel that he's had with all his pitches. Stuff was good, he was getting a lot of swing-and-miss, and then I thought settled in to get us through the middle innings there, to get us through five, but just a little struggle there getting in rhythm early."

Bryan Hoenig was first out of the Miami bullpen, and after striking out Aaron Judge to open the sixth inning, Giancarlo Stanton took one the other way to right field for a solo home run, his fourth of the season, and that made it 4-1 Miami.

Giancarlo Stanton approaching the dugout after his home run. Photo by Jason Schott.

The seventh inning brought some fireworks, as Boone was ejected after he took issue with a strike Alex Verdugo took low and away from Andrew Nardi.

Boone was tossed before he even left the dugout, and he was asked if that surprised him, to which he said, "A little bit, yeah, felt quick."

Verdugo went on to strikeout, before Jon Berti bounced to third base and Jose Trevino flew out to left.

In the eighth with Anthony Bender on for Miami, the Yankees went to work, as Anthony Volpe drew a walk and came in to score easily on a double into the corner from Juan Soto. The Miami right fielder, Jesus Sanchez, was placed practically in front of the Yankee bullpen, so he had to run a mile to get it, which made it definite Volpe would make it with ease.

Judge then struck out, and that was all for Bender. Next up was Stanton, and he drew a walk against Tanner Scott. The Yankees had the tying runs now on base, but Anthony Rizzo popped up to shortstop and Gleyber Torres, in his first appearance in the sixth spot in the lineup, struck out to end the frame.

In the top of the ninth, with Dennis Santana on for the Yanks, Anderson opened the inning with a single, and he came in to score when Nick Fortes hit one to Volpe at shortstop, and he made a throwing error.

With Miami now up 5-2, Scott remained in the game to close it out. He got Verdugo to ground out to first base to open the frame before Berti singled. Then, Trevino popped out to first base for the second out.

Volpe and Soto walked to load the bases, and, as if on cue, Judge was at the plate, but the comeback fell short as he hit a routine fly ball to center field to end it.

Miami avoided the sweep and they improved to 2-11 on the season, while the Yankees dropped to 10-3. On Tuesday, the Yankees and Dodgers were the first teams to hit the 10-win plateau this season.

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