By Dave Ricci firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — BUFFALO — If his first inning of work was any indication of things to come, Marcus Stroman has a bright future.
Stroman worked four innings as the Buffalo Bisons topped Rochester 6-3 in Thursday’s International League season opener at Coca-Cola Field.
Making his Triple-A debut, Stroman worked a very efficient first inning. He struck out the first two batters he faced, got ahead in the counts and mixed his pitches well. He worked fast and fearlessly pounded the strike zone with his fastball as he fanned three batters and gave up just one hit.
“I was happy with it,” Stroman said of his start. “It was good to get back out there, especially my first start. It was exciting. I was happy with the way I threw. I thought I threw the ball well. I kept the ball down for the most part and I thought I executed pitches in big spots.”
But the second and third frames presented a bit more of a challenge for Stroman, who led off the second inning with a walk to Wilkin Ramirez on a pitch that was low in the zone.
“The walk was a borderline pitch,” Stroman said. “It was down, that’s something I’ve been working on in practices, keeping the ball down. Leadoff walks always come back to hurt you so you try to stay away from that.”
The walk did come back to sting Stroman as the Red Wings plated two runs in the second. But he responded with a much better third and fourth inning, yielding just one hit and no runs.
Stroman was pulled on a pitch count after throwing 73 pitches, 47 for strikes.
He gave up two runs on four hits and one walk. He struck out four, hit one batter and left with a no decision.
“Initially he got ahead real well,” said Bisons manager Gary Allenson. “I think he has a tendency to nibble (the corners of the plate) a little bit when he does have two strikes to try and get that third strike on the corner. And if it’s not quite there your margin of error is slim. I’d like to see him get that ground ball in a double-play situation early in the count with one swing of the bat. But he’s not afraid out there.”
Stroman, ranked by Baseball America as the No. 2 prospect in the Jays system, went 9-5 with with a 3.30 ERA in 20 games with Double-A New Hampshire last season. He was the Blue Jays first pick (23rd overall) in the 2012 First-Years Players Draft.
Stroman’s name was in play for a potential spot in the Jays pen and even at end of the rotation during spring training. Ultimately the Jays brass felt Stroman needed more seasoning in the minors.
Stroman also saw success with his secondary pitches, especially a change-up he has been focused on improving and using more.
“I feel like I had pretty good success with my change-up today,” he said. “So definitely throw that more.”
Stroman had plenty offensive support as the Herd batted through the order in the first, scoring four runs on five hits and one walk. Mike Nickeas (1 for 4) hit a two-run single that put the Bisons up 4-0.
Allenson was pleased to see his team score five of its six runs with two outs.
“I think today we kind of hit it where they weren’t,” he said. “A couple balls weren’t hit real well but found a hole, and that’s baseball.”
Bisons center fielder Anthony Gose went 2 for 4, drew a walk and scored twice. Coming off of a good spring training, Gose is looking to keep that momentum going after a disappointing 2013.
“I’m here to prove to the people in the front office that I can play in the Big Leagues,” he said.
Matt Tuiasosopo made a successful return as a Bison, going 3 for 4 with a run and an RBI.
Neil Wagner, who was 16 for 16 in save opportunities with the Bisons last season, picked up his first save of the year, striking out three in 1-1/3 innings of work.
Liam Hendricks, the Bisons fifth starter, piggybacked Stroman’s start to pick up the win. Working the fifth and sixth innings, Hendricks set down six batters in a row.
Rochester starter Scott Diamond (0-1) took the loss as he was roughed up for five runs on six hits in just two innings.
The two teams will meet again at 2:05 p.m. today before traveling to Rochester for a two-game series Saturday and Sunday. The Herd then heads to Lehigh Valley for a three-game set with the IronPigs. LHP Ricky Romero will take the hill for Buffalo today against RHP Alex Meyer.