One pitch produced a loss. No way Marcus Stroman was happy about that. But in the big picture, the Toronto Blue Jays’ top pitching prospect had a pretty good afternoon Tuesday in Coca-Cola Field.
Stroman got through five innings in just 64 pitches in the Bisons’ 3-2 loss to Lehigh Valley, a game that slipped away on Jim Murphy’s three-run homer in the fourth.
Stroman was one of the top pitchers in Triple-A when the Blue Jays called him up after he tossed six no-hit innings for the Bisons here on April 29 against Lousville. But they used him in the big-league bullpen, where they had an acute need, and he was out of his comfort zone.
Now that closer Casey Janssen is back from injury and the pen is stabilized, the Jays have put Stroman back into the Buffalo rotation. In 2-3 starts here, he should be stretched out again to close to 100 pitches and potentially ready to slip into the big-league rotation.
The Jays need a No. 5 guy now that Dustin McGowan is going to the pen. They’ll use either Todd Redmond or Buffalo’s Liam Hendriks Saturday against Oakland.
“I came out and felt good,” Stroman said. “My bullpen before the game felt good. All my pitches felt good. As the game progressed, I feel like I was a little up in the zone as opposed to when I was starting before, I was low pretty much consistently. That’s the only adjustment that I have to make.”
Stroman has a 2.27 ERA with Buffalo, striking out 41 and walking just eight. He posted two of his five strikeouts while setting down the first seven hitters Tuesday, and that stretched his run to 8∑ straight hitless innings in Triple-A. Leandro Castro’s single to left with one out in the third ended it.
With two on and two out in the fourth after a base hit and walk, Stroman fell behind Murphy, 2 and 0, and the IronPigs’ first baseman crushed a no-doubt blast over the fence in left-center to give the visitors the lead.
“If you get behind guys, they tend to hurt you,” Stroman said. “I got behind a pretty good hitter, 2-0, and he capitalized on it. But for the most part, I felt good out there, felt good to be back in the swing of things.”
Manager Gary Allenson expected Stroman to be a little rusty after not throwing at all for six days and having limited outings in the pen. Allenson said he was happy to see Stroman economize his pitches and said the limit will push up to around 80 for his next start.
“He was up in the zone and got away with it a little bit,” Allenson said, referring to five fly-ball outs. “There were probably too many outs in the air.”
Stroman said it was hard at times to use a five-pitch arsenal coming out of the bullpen and needed to adjust to returning to more fastball-slider in late-inning spots.
“You’re not going to say no to coming up in the bullpen. I’ve done it before so it’s something I’m pretty used to and can do,” he said. “But I’ve been groomed as a starter for the past year and a half. I’m excited to start and I got in a good routine. And I’m excited to have an opportunity to start at the big-league level pretty soon hopefully.”
The Bisons are off today and open a series Thursday night in Louisville. Allenson said Ricky Romero, who is coming off a nine-walk outing here Friday night, will pitch either Monday or Tuesday in Indianapolis. He is taking a couple of days off to attend the graduation of his brother at Long Beach State University.
The Blue Jays added left-hander Raul Valdes to the Herd bullpen after a trade with Houston. The 36-year-old left-hander was 2-1, 3.00 in nine games for the Bisons in 2010.