The Return of Marcus Stroman

I’m not sure what is more impressive; that Marcus Stroman is closing in on a return after tearing his ACL six months ago, or that he went back to Duke University to work towards his Sociology degree during the DL stint.

After the incident that happened during Pitchers Fielding Practice on March 10th, many wrote off the 24-year-old as done for the season. From my experience with the injury, it usually takes about 8-12 months for the knee to fully recover (depending on the work you put in), with the 6-8 month period a stepping stone to get back to running, and lateral work. Here’s a brief break-down of what a torn ACL is like post-surgery.

1-2 months: Couch life. The only thing you get up for is to go to the washroom, or shower. Even then you need a chair to sit on. No weight can be put on your leg, you also have zero range of motion, but try to begin the bending process. Sleep is tough to come by, and the knee has to be heavily braced and elevated.  If you move your joint while sleeping, be ready for some devastating pain.

2-4 months: Able to walk around a bit more comfortably on crutches. Some weight can be distributed carefully onto your surgically repaired knee, and you are now in the middle of range-of-motion exercises.

4-6 months: Rehab, rehab, rehab. You can, for the most part, drop the crutches at the four month mark. At this point I was hobbling around Western U Campus. Trampoline work, lunges, range-of-motion exercises. Shockwave therapy on the quad muscle is being done to wake up your muscles that haven’t been used since tearing the ACL.

6-8 months: The knee now feels great, although the strength is not all there quite yet. Walking is easy, and jogging can be done without any pain. Your physiotherapist now has you running around the facility, also doing a ton of lateral work. Around the eight month period the strength is almost all back with continued rehab.

8-12 months: The knee is ready to go. All the rehab, motion exercises, lateral work, shockwave therapy has paid off. All that’s left is an admirable scar that shows how far you’ve come.

A come back can be done at six months. Although it is a remarkable feat, if anybody has the mentality to do it, it’s Marcus Stroman.

Number six took another big step in his recovery process while throwing a 40-pitch simulation game on Monday. He went three innings, generating a lot of awkward swings.

“My pitches felt great,” Stroman told Sportsnet, “I was throwing all through the rehab process. I kept my pitches pretty sharp and was always practicing, spinning the ball, and throwing my changeup the entire summer so my pitches are ready to go.”

The only thing holding him back is getting his pitch count up. The Toronto Blue Jays have planned for Marcus to throw 55 pitches today in a simulated game before moving him to Lansing to throw 70 pitches for the Lugnuts in Single-A ball. The right-hander will then join Triple-A Buffalo on September 7th to throw 85 pitches for the Bisons in their season finale. If all goes well, and Stroman continues to pass each test that is thrown his way, he may be on course to suit up for the Blue Jays come September 12th against the Yankees. But what will his role be?

From the beginning, all Stroman wanted to do was return for this season as a starter, a role which he had relished last year. “Everything I did, from the two-a-day workouts to even being in school, everything was about being a starter,” Stroman told Jeff Simmons of Sportsnet. “I’m in a position to do so. I’m ready to start. If they need me in the ‘pen, I’m willing to contribute in whatever facet they need me. I’m looking forward to come back and dominate.”

Stroman finished 11-6 with an ERA of 3.65 (rotation ERA is 3.70 today) in 20 starts while holding the opposition to a .242 average in 2014. If Marcus continues to excel in his recovery, the Blue Jays will have to decide if they will go with a six-man rotation with Drew Hutchison on his way back. This may give some of the more seasoned veteran starters an extra days rest.

GM Alex Anthopoulos is weighing his choices. “Right now he’s being stretched out to start because at least it gives us more options, more flexibility. We’re not committing to anything because we just don’t know how his stuff’s going to be, how his command’s going to be.”

It’s a tough decision to make. Hutchison has been great in his previous two starts, do you throw him in long relief? Or does Stroman acquire that role? Nonetheless, having too many arms that can toss quality innings is a great problem to have.

Not only will the 5’8″ pitcher from Duke University elevate the talent of the pitching staff on the field, but he is the type of player that brings a close clubhouse even closer. “I’m pumped for him,” says injured second baseman Devon Travis, “He’s always motivating me, comes in every morning, ‘Hey man, let’s go, got to get you going.’” Equipped with a devastating slider, the 24-year-old is the type of player managers dream of having on their roster. He can motivate himself, the team, and is a reliable gamer who goes to the mound and works for every out.

If you follow Marcus Stroman and his journey back to the bump, you will see him tweet HDMH, meaning “height doesn’t measure heart.” Returning from a torn ACL to pitch in the same season not only takes dedication, but a ton of heart. Barring any setbacks, Stroman is on pace to do the unthinkable, and could become the first professional athlete to succumb to an injury of this severity and play in the same year…Sociology degree from one of the most elite universities in North America to boot.

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