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Stroman spins another 13-karat gem

Jays righty repeats career-high strikeout effort for Fisher Cats
July 31, 2013

His win-loss record might not show it, but Blue Jays pitching prospect Marcus Stroman is enjoying his summer on the mound.

The owner of a modest 2-1 mark and a 2.70 ERA in six July starts, first-rounder Stroman bookended the month with a pair of historic 13-strikeout gems.

After becoming the first New Hampshire hurler to strike out a baker's dozen in almost a decade on July 2, he has now achieved the feat twice inside 29 days.

Stroman (6-2) allowed two runs on four hits and two walks over 6 2/3 innings as the Double-A Fisher Cats topped the host Bowie Baysox, 6-2, on Wednesday.

"I felt good. Going into the game I felt like I've been able to get in a really good routine the past couple weeks, even the past two months," Toronto's No. 3 prospect said. "I've just been pitching to my strengths and once I get in there, I've started rolling.

"I've been pitching off my fastball, establishing the fastball early in the game. My slider had good action on it and I was able to throw it in any count, and my changeup has been a huge developmental pitch. I threw it to left-handers and right-handers, and now I'm able to throw it in hitters' counts."

No other pitcher in baseball -- neither the Majors nor the Minors -- has whiffed more batters in July than Stroman, who has 55 punchouts in 40 frames. Northwest Arkansas' Kyle Zimmer is the closest Minor Leaguer to the 23-year-old, having fanned 49 batters in 10 fewer innings.

On Wednesday, Stroman struck out the side around a two-out walk in the first inning and he fanned two batters in the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh frames.

The only inning the Duke product did not retire a Bowie hitter by strikeout was in the second, when he surrendered a two-run homer to Seth Loman.

The New York native also fanned a career-high 13 strikeouts in a loss to New Britain on July 2, tying a franchise mark set by former Major Leaguer Gustavo Chacin on Sept. 8, 2004.

"My approach is to put guys away early so I can save pitches to go deep into games," said Stroman, who struck out 11 batters swinging. "At 0-2 or 1-2, I'm reading their swings and their takes. [Catcher] A.J. Jimenez has been huge for me and [backstop] Jack Murphy has taught me a lot about the game. They are both smart guys.

"It's not that I'm necessarily trying to go into games to strike out that many people ... but if I get myself 0-2 or 1-2, that is definitely in the back of my mind."

Selected by the Blue Jays 22nd overall in the 2012 Draft, Stroman, who has 92 strikeouts over 76 innings this season, said part of his success is due to reading the game more efficiently and micro-managing at-bats.

"At this level, you can't blow guys away like you can in college," said Stroman, who throws a low- to mid-90s fastball and a mid-80s changeup. "There's a more mental side to it. It's more of a chess game where you're setting things up and getting to the pitch you want to.

"The situation dictates it. If runners are in scoring position and I wanted to get to a slider, I might throw a fastball in to make them move their feet. There are a bunch of different situations like that."

Ultimately, Stroman's successes lead to one thing -- proving he belongs.

At 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds, the right-hander has had to deal with a lot of criticism about his potential from high school and college to the pros.

"Being small has worked against me because nobody thinks I should -- or can -- start because of my height," Stroman said. "But that is just a stereotype, and I would like to open some eyes.

"Every day you have people talk about how I can only be a reliever, a bullpen guy. Everybody still says that to this day. It fuels me. It motivates me."

Fisher Cats pitcher Alan Farina struck out two batters and worked around a pair of hits over 1 1/3 scoreless innings and Scott Gracey fanned one batter in a perfect ninth to seal the victory.

New Hampshire third baseman Andy Burns was 3-for-5 with a homer, a double and two RBIs and center fielder Kenny Wilson and first baseman Gabe Jacobo \collected two hits apiece in the win.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB.