Marcus Stroman knows he made a mistake and he's the first to admit he deserved to pay for his error in judgement.
Now the first-rounder wants to put the incident behind him and reward the faith the Blue Jays have shown in him.
Toronto's No. 5 prospect yielded four hits and a walk while striking out six batters over five innings in his season debut in the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats' 7-4 win over the host New Britain Rock Cats.
"When the game is taken away, you realize how lucky and fortunate you are to have," said Stroman, who was banned for 50 games in August for violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
"I'm lucky to be here and now I want to work hard, play hard and have fun. The Blue Jays have really stuck behind me through hard times and I want to prove them right because they believe I can pitch at this level and the next level."
Selected by the Blue Jays 22nd overall in the 2012 Draft out of Duke University, Stroman tested positive for a banned stimulant that he said in a statement was in an over-the-counter supplement.
Since then, the 22-year-old Long Island native has been working hard to stay in shape for the time his suspension came to an end.
In front of his family and friends -- who took the ferry from Long Island -- and his agents -- who flew in from the West Coast -- Stroman hit the first batter he faced [James Beresford], but he did not allow a hit until the third inning. Beresford and Danny Santanta recorded consecutive two-out singles, but Stroman struck out Sobolewski to escape the threat.
"It was huge, it was the first jam I was in in the game," he said. "The two hits were ground balls up the middle on two bad pitches that I left over the plate while I was up in the count. I got a huge strikeout and that propelled me through the next two innings."
In the following frame, Stroman had to work out of the stretch again when Josmil Pinto led off the inning with a walk and Deibinson Romero followed with a single. However, Stroman set down the next three batters to keep the Rock Cats off the board.
"The fourth inning was definitely the toughest inning," said Stroman. "A leadoff walk is never a good situation, then a single, I knew I had to bear down. Luckily I got [Daniel] Ortiz on a changeup to right [field] and that was a huge pitch for me to get a lazy fly ball. Then I beared down and got out unscathed."
Stroman, whose cousin, Erskine Kelley, played in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization from 1992-97, had success with all four pitches -- fastball, curveball, slider and changeup.
"For his first outing, he handled himself extremely well, both emotionally and physically, and he executed his pitches especially well," pitching coach Tom Signore said. "He threw three changeups but registered two outs with them. His put-away pitch was his slider. He went a little deeper into counts than we would have liked, but he used his slider very well.
"His fastball is his best pitch and it sat between 92 mph and 95 mph today. We're hoping that's going to be his velocity for the next eight or 10 years."
Since his suspension, the 5-foot-9 farmhand has kept on a similar throwing schedule to others in the organization in full-time leagues..
He went to the instructional league in October for three weeks, and once the offseason began, he came back to New York to work out with his personal trainer on Long Island four or five times a week.
In February, Stroman flew down to Florida two weeks earlier than he had originally planned so he could long toss in good weather at the team's Spring Training complex, then he remained at the facility for another month-and-a-half for extended spring training.
"I knew I would have to come out blazing because of the suspension," said Stroman, who threw 56 of 86 pitches for strikes. "I wanted to make sure I was in tip-top shape."
His positive attitude toward the suspension has pleased many people within the organization, especially his pitching coach, who said he will likely be limited to 85 pitches for the next five starts before being stretched out to as many as 95 pitches.
"His makeup is so good that he never lets things affect him," added Signore. "He paid the price [for the banned substance] and went about his business professionally. He acts humble all the time and never acts like he's a king. Obviously he has a good upbringing, because he's a very humble and great teammate. All the guys love him. You'd never know if he was a first-round or a 30th-round pick."
In 15 relief appearances between short-season Vancouver and Double-A New Hampshire last year before his suspension, Stroman was 3-0 with a 3.26 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 19 1/3 innings.
A decorated collegiate player, Stroman also ranks second in Duke history with a 3.27 ERA and fourth with 290 strikeouts. A semifinalist for the 2012 Golden Spikes Award, Stroman also was selected to the U.S. Collegiate National Team
On Sunday, New Hampshire first baseman Clint Robinson was 3-for-4 with a double, an RBI and a run scored and right fielder Brad Glenn hit a two-run homer.