Marcus Stroman’s season was over.
At least it was March 10, a warm and cloudy day at the Toronto Blue Jays’ spring-training complex in Dunedin, Fla.
Stroman felt a pop in his left knee while trying to field a bunt. A MRI revealed a torn anterior cruciate ligament. General manager Alex Anthopoulos told reporters he expected to lose Stroman for the rest of the year.
Instead, Stroman recovered in six months.
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And on Monday night in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, Stroman will try to extend his own comeback story to his team, which faces a 2-0 deficit in the best-of-seven.
“He’s the perfect guy for it,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said.
After Stroman was hurt, he went back to school at Duke University, where he was selected 22nd overall by the Blue Jays in the 2012 MLB Draft. He reached the major leagues two years later and went 11-6 with a 3.65 ERA in 26 games, 20 starts.
The Jays were expecting Stroman to build off 2014 this summer. Instead, he found rewards in rehab and schoolwork. In August he posted on Twitter a picture of the gift he bought himself for completing his degree: a steel-gray 2016 Audi RS7, one of only 50 made.
He also completed rehab and won four starts for the Jays in September, posting a 1.67 ERA.
The determination shown by the 5-foot-8 Stroman is reflected in his personal motto — which he trademarked — “Height Doesn’t Measure Heart” or “HDMH.”
“You don’t have to be 6 foot 2, 6 foot 4, 6 foot 5 to do anything in the world,” he said.
Stroman’s first start back was in the second game of a doubleheader on Sept. 12 at Yankee Stadium, where he allowed three runs in five innings. He got better from there, allowing only two runs in his next 22 innings before the playoffs.
Against Texas in the ALDS he posted a 3.46 ERA in two starts totaling 11 innings, both no-decisions. The Blue Jays lost Game 2, but Stroman left Game 5 with the score tied after six innings before Toronto rallied for a 6-3 victory, clinching the series.
“I’m happy to be in this position. I want to be the one to have the ball in these games,” Stroman said. “That’s what all the preparation and all the hard work is (for).”