MLB

Marcus Stroman laments Blue Jays' lack of veteran presence

Marcus Stroman is ready to embrace a leadership role with the Blue Jays this season, but he's also concerned that the lack of veteran presence on the team's roster will do a disservice to Toronto's young stars.

Toronto righty wants emphasis on leadership to help team's young stars develop

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman, seen at spring training on Sunday, is concerned that the lack of veteran presence on the roster will do a disservice to the team's young stars. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Marcus Stroman is ready to embrace a leadership role with the Blue Jays this season, but he's also concerned that the lack of veteran presence on the team's roster will do a disservice to Toronto's young stars.

The 27-year-old right-hander credited older players like Mark Buehrle, LaTroy Hawkins, Jose Bautista, Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson with helping him through his early years in the majors.

But with most of those names now long gone, Stroman said the Blue Jays' youthful core is missing out.

"Should I honestly be that guy in the clubhouse? I would love to be that guy but ... I used to go to Mark Buehrle if I had a question, LaTroy Hawkins if I had a question and I want these guys that are young now to have that same feeling," Stroman said.

"I'm still trying to get established myself. I would never consider myself a veteran, I still feel like I'm working, I still feel like I'm climbing, I'm nowhere near where I think I'm going to be so I think we do have to put more of an emphasis in this game on keeping these [veteran] guys.

"Not only do they perform on the field, their mental [approach], I can't tell you how much they've done for me."

Stroman spoke to the media for the first time this spring training on Sunday, answering questions over a lengthy 20-minute scrum that touched on a variety of topics.

But the team's lack of veteran presence was among the most prominent.

Stroman, who's been a Blue Jay since the team drafted him in 2012, is one of the older pitchers who will figure into Toronto's 2019 rotation. Veterans Clayton Richard and Matt Shoemaker, both acquired this off-season, are expected to fill out the starting five with 26-year-old Aaron Sanchez while Ryan Borucki, 24, will compete for the fifth spot.

Toronto signed Canadian right-hander John Axford on Saturday, a move that adds veteran presence to the bullpen, and position players Kevin Pillar, Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales are also returning to a team that is trending towards a more youthful core with baseball's top prospect Vlad Guerrero Jr. waiting in the wings.

Stroman emphasizes need to perform

While Stroman said he was excited to see what the young team could do this year, he also seemed to have some doubts about the composition of that roster.

"We're a young team so we need to perform," Stroman said. "I know everybody [that's] part of this team we have here now is doing everything that they can in their power to go out there perform so I hope everybody in this organization is doing the same.

"I hope they're putting us on the field with the best team possible to go out and compete with the Yankees and the Red Sox on a consistent basis."

Stroman, who was among the top pitchers in the league in 2017, struggled last year with a 4-9 record and 5.54 earned-run average through 19 starts while he dealt with blister problems and a shoulder injury that was "never right" over the course of the year.

Stroman said there were times he "probably shouldn't have even been out there [pitching]," but after an off-season that saw him ramp up his training schedule with head athletic trainer Nikki Huffman, he feels the injury is behind him.

"It was a battle," Stroman said of his down year. "I'd have to go out there and try at 110 per cent sometimes to just be. ... [but] everything's coming out extremely easy so I'm excited for the future.

"I know what I'm going to do, I know what I'm capable of.

"I can't wait."

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