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Stroman excited to face hitters in intrasquad game

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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."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"event":["prospect" ,"spring_training" ] }
{"event":["prospect" ,"spring_training" ] }
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