Marcus Stroman is perfect starter to face Blue Jays for Yankees' home opener

“I’ve always been someone who has performed in [big] moments.”
New York Yankees v Houston Astros
New York Yankees v Houston Astros / Tim Warner/GettyImages

After a solid spring, pitching to a 2.61 ERA over five starts and 20.2 innings, new Yankees starter Marcus Stroman won his regular season debut at Houston with a solid six innings, allowing only four hits and three unearned runs in an eventual 5-3 Yankees win.

He got the nod from manager Aaron Boone for the home opener at Yankee Stadium Friday, saying that’s a “dream come true.”

“Definitely beyond excited to pitch in front of my family, my few family and friends I have there. To grow up in New York watching the Yankees, to be able to pitch a home opener in my career, I’m just very thankful. I’m grateful. It’s a moment that I’ll never forget,” said Stroman.

The 32-year-old Stroman made his MLB debut for Toronto in 2014, and pitched six seasons as a Blue Jay, appearing in 135 games — including 129 starts — with a 3.76 ERA across 789.2 innings.

He got the Opening Day start for Toronto in 2016, allowing three runs over eight innings in a 5-3 Blue Jays win, and started again for them on Opening Day 2019, when he allowed only two hits across seven scoreless innings in a 2-0 loss. He was also the Opening Day starter for the Chicago Cubs last a season, allowing only three hits over six scoreless innings in a 4-0 Cubs win.

Stroman made five postseason starts for Toronto across two ALCS runs in 2015 and 2016, including a gutsy AL Wild Card win over Baltimore in 2016, when he allowed four hits and two runs over six innings in a 5-2 Blue Jays win back when the wild card format was only a single elimination game.

That ability to perform on the brightest of stages is one of the reasons the Yankees signed him to a two-year, $37 million free agent contract in January, and self-confidence in his ability to handle the home opener assignment is obvious: “I’ve always been someone who has performed in [big] moments.”

In what should be manna from heaven for Yankees fans’ ears, Stroman said, “I’ve always been someone who wanted the ball. I think a lot of individuals don’t want the ball. A lot of individuals don’t want to be in the spotlight and want to avoid it. I’ve never been that. I work extremely hard, so at the end of the day, you want to be in pressure-filled moments.”

There's no doubt the Long Island native, whose baseball consciousness would have been formed when he was just aged 5-10 for those great World Series championship teams from 1996-2000, is excited to start at Yankee Stadium in front of his family and friends.

Adding intrigue to the moment is the fact that he’ll be pitching against his old team, the one that drafted him No. 22 overall in 2012, and called him up for his MLB debut in 2014. Before he was dealt to the Mets at the July 2019 trade deadline, he overlapped with current Blue Jays players Bo Bichette, Vlad Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, Danny Jansen, Jordan Romano and Tim Mayza.

The 3-4 Blue Jays come into the Bronx with ice cold bats, setting new franchise and modern day MLB records for futility. According to Sportsnet Stats, the Blue Jays are the first team in modern MLB history (since 1901) to be victimized by a no-hitter and a one-hitter within the first seven games of the season, with both of those games coming in their series loss to the Astros.

They also just set new franchise records in Houston, with the fewest hits (nine) and batting average (.106) in a three-game series.

The money line for the home opener implies a 60.5% probability of the Yankees winning, but that might be low given Stro’s history of success with Opening Day assignments, combined with the early-season feebleness of Toronto’s offense.

The Yankees are coming off a marvelous 6-1 road trip to open the season against likely 2024 postseason contenders Houston and Arizona, and will look to extend Toronto’s misery. And given the opportunity to play a big role in that, the local kid from Medford, NY, will look to shine on the big stage of Yankee Stadium on Friday afternoon.