2/25/2014 6:35 P.M. ET
Stroman excited to face hitters in intrasquad game
By Gregor Chisholm / MLB.com
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Right-hander Marcus Stroman made his unofficial Spring Training debut with a relatively impressive inning during an intrasquad game on Tuesday afternoon.
Stroman, ranked No. 55 on MLB.com's Top 100 prospects list, faced one batter over the minimum in his scoreless inning of work. It included a strikeout of second baseman Ryan Goins, and he also induced weak grounders off the bats of Jose Reyes and Colby Rasmus.
That marked the first step in Stroman's quest to earn the final spot in the Blue Jays' starting rotation. There's a long way to go and the competition won't really get underway until everyone has an outing or two under their belt, but Stroman admitted he's already trying to turn some heads.
"It's hard, man, I'm new to this," said Stroman, who is attending the big league portion of Spring Training for the first time in his career. "I just try to go out there and compete, and whatever happens, happens. Every time I go out there, I'm trying to do my best, and I let everything else take care of itself."
The case for Stroman to make the starting rotation is already turning into one of the bigger storylines in camp. Grapefruit League games have yet to begin, but Stroman has received a lot of attention while throwing side sessions and also during Tuesday's intrasquad affair.
The 5-foot-9 product of Duke University seems to throw with relative ease. He generates a lot of velocity on his fastball, and there has been a noticeable improvement with his changeup during the past year. Combine those two pitches with a wipe-out slider, and he has all the makings of a potential impact starter at the big league level.
Stroman's biggest test this spring will be displaying an ability to command all of those pitches. Mid-90s velocity is a major asset, but ultimately it still comes down to location, and that's what his coaching staff will be looking for the most.
"There have been a lot of hard throwers in this game that can't command it, and it really does you no good," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "The key is working ahead, strike one, and good hitters, if you fall behind those guys, regardless of how good your arm is, they're going to hit you.
"You have to be able to throw your breaking ball when you're behind in the count, that's very important at this level, and work fast, all of those things. But there's a lot of guys with real good arms that don't make it, and the reason why is they don't know where it's going."
The Blue Jays will start the year with R.A. Dickey, Brandon Morrow, Mark Buehrle and J.A. Happ as part of their rotation. That leaves one spot for a group that includes Stroman, Esmil Rogers, Todd Redmond, Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek.
The early belief in camp is that Rogers and Redmond have the inside track, but there's also a possibility that could change over time. Hutchison and Stroman have very high upsides, and both could make the club's decision very tough.
"No nerves, no nerves, it's what I put in all the work for," Stroman said. "When you get out there, it's just fun. It was exciting to get out there."
Gibbons, Blue Jays will get replay-system practice
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays will get their first taste of Major League Baseball's new instant-replay initiative during the upcoming Grapefruit League season.
The instant-replay program was announced during the offseason, and Spring Training will provide everyone with a trial run before the regular season gets underway in late March.
Fans shouldn't read too much into manager John Gibbons coming out to appeal calls in spring games, though, because it's something the league is actually encouraging teams to do.
"They want to see that happen," Gibbons said. "We had that meeting last week, and they said the umpires will notify us before the game and say, 'Hey if you get a chance, try it.'
"They want to see it, and they want the umpires to practice everything, like they did out in the Arizona Fall League. They did some out there."
Gibbons wasn't sure exactly which games this spring will include instant replay, but every team is expected to have a chance to try it out at least five times. Once the regular season starts, the Blue Jays will have a war-room of sorts set up to monitor all of the available camera angles, but during the spring, Gibbons will rely on his gut instincts.
Managers will have one challenge per game, and if the club is successful, it will receive a second challenge. After the sixth inning, umpires also have the ability to ask for an instant replay on their own if a team has already used its challenge.
When a play is challenged, the umpires will have a designated area behind home plate where they will be connected to the league's replay headquarters in New York. An umpire in New York will then inform the umpire whether or not the call should be reversed.
"MLB wants to get it right, especially the first go-around," Gibbons said. "They've done studies on it, and they've practiced it quite a bit, and whoever is upstairs watching it, they'll be able to know pretty quick."
Morrow has fun with injury reports
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Right-hander Brandon Morrow had some fun with the media on Tuesday afternoon after it was revealed the day before he was dealing with a sore calf in his right leg.
The injury, if it can even be called that, is very minor and won't require him to miss Friday's outing against the Pirates. Still, when the ailment was reported on Monday, it received a lot of attention on social media, and Morrow wasn't oblivious to the news.
The articles and tweets prompted Morrow to put on a bit of a show in the Blue Jays' clubhouse after Tuesday's intrasquad game. He entered the locker room with his right leg covered in approximately a dozen bandages.
Morrow couldn't help but laugh off the concern, and he doesn't anticipate the calf being an issue this spring. He's set to pitch as many as two innings against Pittsburgh on Friday, and will come out in relief of left-handed starter Mark Buehrle.
The news likely received some attention because Morrow was limited to just 10 starts in 2013 because of a right forearm injury. His arm and shoulder feel fine this spring, and he has been throwing without limitations.
The 29-year-old will be relied upon this season as a main component of the Blue Jays' rotation. The hard thrower owns a career record of 41-40 with a 4.22 ERA over portions of seven years in the big leagues.
• Munenori Kawasaki spent some time in left field during Tuesday afternoon's intrasquad game at the Bobby Mattick Spring Training complex. Kawasaki has spent his entire Major League career as an infielder, but the Blue Jays are looking to increase his overall versatility to potentially become a super-utility player. Kawasaki didn't have to make any plays in left, but Gibbons expects to put him out there at least a few times this spring.
"We're going to play him a little bit in the outfield," Gibbons said. "If he can do it, it just makes his opportunities better on the team. He's a good athlete, he can play out there. You'll see him out there a bit. How often? I'm not sure."