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Marcus Stroman laughs off ‘stigma’ as he prepares for Mets return

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Marcus Stroman hasn’t thrown a pitch in a major league game in almost 17 months, but to him the notion he needs to build up to any level is heresy.

“I never have to get ready because I stay ready, so I am ready to rock,” the Mets right-hander said Thursday at spring training in Port St. Lucie, Fla. “I am ready to go out there and throw 200-plus innings like I am every year. My preparation is elite, my trainer is elite and I put my utmost confidence in her and my body and my mind and I am just excited to go out there and pitch.”

Stroman’s Mets career appeared over last August, when he opted out from the season, citing COVID-19 concerns. Rated among the top free-agent starting pitchers, it was expected the 29-year-old Long Island native would land elsewhere, but in an unpredictable market during a pandemic, he accepted the club’s qualifying offer for this year worth $18.9 million.

In his two months pitching for the Mets in 2019, after arriving from Toronto in a deal for Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods Richardson, he went 4-2 with a 3.77 ERA and 1.475 WHIP in 11 starts for the team.

“I am excited to go out there and perform, because there is this huge stigma that I was terrible in my 11 starts with a 3.7,” Stroman said. “I just kind of laugh at that. I know what I am going to put in this year going forward. Confidence definitely comes from work ethic.”

Mets spring training Marcus Stroman
Marcus Stroman
Robert Sabo

It’s a Mets rotation that also includes Jacob deGrom and Carlos Carrasco, with David Peterson, Joey Lucchesi and Jordan Yamamoto among the names competing for starting jobs. The Mets also hope Noah Syndergaard will return from Tommy John surgery rehab by June.

Stroman was slotted behind deGrom in the rotation as summer camp convened last year, but tore a calf muscle during a workout and then chose to opt out as his rehab neared completion. Stroman’s stint on the injured list provided him with the service time needed to become a free agent.

He was asked what has changed this year in regards to his decision to play during the pandemic.

“I think it’s pretty obvious the standards that have been put in place and everything was kind of up in the air [last season], you never knew what you were going to expect showing up every single day,” Stroman said. “ So I think MLB and the Mets have done an unbelievable job of putting the safety protocols in place and moving forward and getting everything where it needs to be to provide a safe environment. I am looking forward to competing and I won’t be addressing any more comments about the past.”

If anything, he senses the year off was beneficial to him.

“My body is elite so I kind of put a priority on my body, my mind, my arm during that entire process,” Stroman said. “It wasn’t like I was just hanging out. I was training daily, getting ready for whenever I was going to go out there next.”

The new additions include Stroman’s former Blue Jays teammate, Kevin Pillar, who this week agreed to terms with the Mets on a one-year deal with an option for 2022. Pillar was among the game’s top defensive outfielders when he played behind Stroman, but his metrics suggest his glovework has declined the last two seasons. Stroman welcomes the reunion.

“Kevin Pillar has always been my guy,” Stroman said. “Always been one of my best friends, all throughout that whole Toronto reign, we came up together. He’s an unbelievable competitor – one of the most fiery guys to go out on the field.”

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