Marcus Stroman has news for you: The World Baseball Classic is a better place for him to get ready for the regular season than spring training.
“I think so,’’ Stroman said. “These are unbelievable lineups I’m getting to face. The Dominican (in his first WBC start in Miami), and I’ll be facing Puerto Rico on Friday. One through nine, they’re All-Stars.
“You definitely have to be on top of your game to get these guys out. This is a great experience, and I definitely think it will prepare me better (for the regular season).’’
There are plenty of others around the major leagues who think otherwise, of course. Star MLB veteran starting pitchers stay away from the WBC in droves. You can go 15-20 deep among top American-born starters before you’d name Stroman.
And in fact, ironically enough, as Stroman was on the dais along with Jim Leyland and Adam Jones on Wednesday afternoon at Petco Park a few hours before Team USA’s game against Venezuela, a nearby television showed Madison Bumgarner pitching in Scottsdale against the Angels.
Meanwhile, Stroman — who won’t turn 26 until May 1— is left as the Team USA’s de facto ace after Chris Archer returned to Tampa Bay’s camp following his four-inning outing in Team USA’s opener last Friday.
Archer’s enthusiasm for the event was tempered by the Rays’ concerns about his usage, and he threw only 41 pitches in four hitless innings against Colombia — 21 pitches short of the 65-pitch first-round limit.
Leyland — without naming names — also talked during the same media session about “getting phone calls at midnight from pitching coaches,’’ speaking to the concerns MLB organizations have, and the tough task he and his staff face attempting to appease them while trying to win WBC games.
As for a supposed increased chance of injury in WBC play so early in the baseball calendar year, while Jones was making the following comment, Stroman emphatically shook his head in agreement:
“You can get hurt in your spring training game just as easily as you can get hurt here,’’ Jones said. “So I throw that out the window because you can see Ian Desmond, unfortunately, break his hand in spring training. Injuries happen…you can’t avoid them.’’
Stroman reached his pitch limit (plus one at 66 total pitches) in getting through 4.2 scoreless innings with only three hits allowed to the All-Star-laden Dominican lineup on Saturday. He will pitch with five days rest against Puerto Rico on Friday, and says moving to the 80-pitch, round-two limit will be no problem.
“I prepared in the offseason leading up to this,’’ Stroman said. “I’m ready to go out there and throw 80 pitches, and we’ll see how far that takes me. Puerto Rico has an unbelievable lineup. I’m pretty close with a couple of those guys — (Carlos) Correa, (Francisco) Lindor. I love this moment, I love the atmosphere of these games. I can’t wait to face another All-Star lineup.’’
Stroman’s mother is Puerto Rican, so he did have the option to pitch for them, rather than against them. He’s quite comfortable with his choice.
“I got ribbed for a little bit on Twitter,’’ Stroman said. “But at the end of the day, I’m American, and I’m going to play for my country. I played for the 2011 collegiate national team, so it just felt right playing for (Team) USA. I think I made the right decision; my mom is happy with my decision.’’
There also is a chance Stroman could get one more WBC start on regular rest if Team USA reaches the championship game next Wednesday at Dodger Stadium.
By Tony DeMarco