Each time Marcus Stroman takes the mound for the Toronto Blue Jays, it could be for the last time.
While his win-loss record may not reflect it, the hypercompetitive right-handed pitcher is crafting himself a pretty good season. And, at the age of 28, his highest value to a rebuilding Blue Jays outfit is probably as trade bait to a contending team looking to bolster its starting rotation for a possible playoff run.
MLB’s trade deadline is not until July 31, but already some teams are making moves.
The American League East front-running New York Yankees acquired former Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion from the Seattle Mariners in a trade late last week. They are said to be sniffing around to see what it might take to pry Stroman away from the Blue Jays.
The longer Stroman can continue to perform at a high level, the better the return the Blue Jays can expect should a trade eventually be consummated.
It was against this backdrop that Stroman skipped to the mound on Tuesday night for the Blue Jays in the second contest of a four-game set against the Los Angeles Angels at Rogers Centre.
Stroman put in another strong showing but got burned by one bad inning in which the Angels scored two on home runs by Kole Calhoun and Brian Goodwin on their way to a 3-1 victory.
The Angels have now won the first two games of the series.
Stroman would go seven-plus innings and was charged for all three runs off four hits, his record dipping to 4-9. Tyler Skaggs (6-6) also put in a good showing for L.A., holding Toronto to just one run off three hits over 7.1 innings while striking out six.
Stroman said there is no way to bury your head in the sand when it comes to all the trade rumours involving his name.
“It’s impossible not to be aware of it,” he said. “I mean, I wake up and socials are blasted, there’s talk everywhere in the clubhouse. It’s kind of around 24-7. Definitely aware of it.
“I’m in a real good place mentally, I’m really not bothered by any of it.”
While the Blue Jays have him under control for the rest of next year and the year after that, he said he has come to understand the business of baseball.
“It’s kind of out of my control,” he said. “They’ve been throwing my name around in trade talks all the time.
“It doesn’t seem like I’m going to be signed here to a long-term deal. So it’s just something that you kind of have to come to terms with.”
Before the game, the Blue Jays announced they were placing first baseman Justin Smoak, who has now missed four consecutive games with a left-quad strain, on the 10-day injured list.
And if you were wondering, perhaps, what possibly could be the reason for the continued struggles of starting pitcher Edwin Jackson, he of the 12.43 earned-run average, this could be an answer.
The 35-year-old also landed on the injured list on Tuesday with what the club is describing as lower-back pain.
To fill their spots on the 25-man roster, the Blue Jays recalled utility-man Billy McKinney and pitcher Justin Shafer from their Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo.
Heading into Tuesday’s game, Stroman’s record was an unimpressive 4-8 through his first 15 starts. That had to do with a lack of run support as much as anything.
In seven of those 15 starts, the Blue Jays had not scored a run when Stroman exited the game. In two other games, Toronto had scored just one run by the time Stroman hit the showers.
Despite the lousy offence behind him, Stroman carted a 3.18 earned-run average into Tuesday’s outing, ninth among AL pitchers. And he ranked first in the league with a 57.8 ground-ball percentage.
And Stroman was rolling along in Tuesday’s outing, allowing just one hit through the first four innings as the score remained 0-0.
True to form, Stroman counted six ground-ball outs against the first 13 batters he faced through the first four innings against the Angels on Tuesday, while striking out three and allowing just one hit in what remained a scoreless game.
That quickly changed in the bottom of the fourth when Lourdes Gurriel Jr. put a charge into a Skaggs changeup and sent it sailing over the wall in left for a home run and a 1-0 Toronto lead.
In the 23 games since returning from his Triple-A demotion, the left fielder is hitting .329 with eight home runs.
But Stroman failed to protect the lead in the top of the fifth, surrendering the home runs to Calhoun (No. 16 on the season) and then Goodwin (7) that vaulted L.A. in front 2-1.
Some dubious base running killed Toronto’s hopes in the sixth after Randal Grichuk led off with a single.
When Rowdy Tellez did the same into right, Grichuk tried to make it to third but was thrown out on a strong throw by Calhoun, the Angels outfielder.
Then, with runners at first and second with just one out, a line drive by Danny Jansen was caught by Luis Rengifo, the L.A. shortstop. Seeing that Tellez had taken a step or two toward third base, Rengifo then made the relay to second for the inning-ending double-play.
Stoman’s night was over after he surrendered a cheap infield single by Kevan Smith that hopped lazily over the bag at third. In came Tim Mayza in relief and he allowed Smith to take second on a wild pitch.
Smith went to third on a single by Rengifo and then scored on a groundout by Tommy La Stella.
After the game, Stroman was asked if he expected to be a Blue Jay once the deadline has passed.
“It seems like everybody’s saying I’m not going to be,” he said. “So I don’t know. I’m doing everything in my power to keep all that out of my head.”