Stroman’s first true test of game-readiness still to come

What he’s doing isn’t easy, the true test of his game-readiness starts next Wednesday when he begins his rehabilitation assignment at single-A Lansing, and at some point he’s sure to be subject to the usual challenges all pitchers face in building up for a season.

“We still have to gauge how he does in that real game action,” said Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker. “His arm feels tremendous right now, and during spring training you go through those peaks and valleys early in spring and late in spring. He’s been throwing all year, so he’s been keeping the rest of his body in great shape and his arm in great shape. The real key is that his knee responds, which it has been, and then it’s the feel for his pitches in a game setting, his finishing pitches, and making sure he can expand on certain pitches when he needs to.

“If he’s doing those things, then he certainly could be ready to perform up here.”

For now that’s if, not when, although the reaction to his 51-pitch simulated game Friday and his excited tweets afterwards speaks to how tantalizing the possibility of Stroman rejoining the rotation is right now.

Even manager John Gibbons, a voice of caution along the way, is now talking out loud about the 24-year-old jumping into the rotation in the coming weeks.

“The way it’s going now, he might come up and start for us, get a start or two and see how he’s doing,” said Gibbons. “I didn’t think he was going to be back period. Then when it was starting to look like he’s going to be back, I thought, well, he’s going to come out of the ‘pen. … If things go well (in his two rehab starts), hell, he’d come up here and start, I would think.”

Where exactly he’d fit is an interesting question, especially given that the Blue Jays don’t have an immediate need in the rotation. After next Wednesday’s outing at Lansing, slated for roughly 65-70 pitches, he’ll move to triple-A Buffalo for an 85-pitch outing at Pawtucket on Sept. 7.

His next start day would be Sept. 12, when Marco Estrada is currently lined up to face New York at Yankee Stadium. The Blue Jays have inserted an extra starter on occasion the past couple of years, something Gibbons mentioned as a possibility.

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“It might give everyone else a breather,” said Gibbons. “If he comes back and he’s really good, he could turn some things upside down, I guess you could say. …

“His arm was never an issue, everybody knows how good his arm is, what kind of pitcher he is. He might end up being a difference-maker down the stretch when we need it.”

That’s why finding a spot for him ultimately won’t be an issue if Stroman can regain his form of 2014.

As Gibbons put it, “he’s a priority around here.”

Stroman needs to keep performing to make sure things stay that way, a process that really starts in earnest at Lansing.

“It’s always ideal to face as many hitters in a game situation where you’re really getting your game-clock in line with the speed of the game, and making adjustments throughout the game,” said Walker. “So it’s certainly not ideal (for Stroman to have just two rehab starts) but as long as he feels good and sees enough hitters and we feel good about where he’s at, then it’s a decision we’ll make.”


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