Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman throws at spring training in Dunedin, Fla., on Wednesday, February 21, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Blue Jays Stroman relishes chance to start in Montreal series

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Marcus Stroman has one last exhibition start remaining before the regular season kicks off next week, and it’s the one he’s been looking forward to most.

Stroman, who was shut down for most of spring training with right shoulder inflammation, is scheduled to pitch Monday at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium in the opener of a two-game pre-season series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

“I can’t wait,” Stroman said Wednesday after pitching 2 2/3 innings against the Philadelphia Phillies. “I think Canadian fans are the best in the world. I love pitching in Toronto, I love pitching in Canada.

“We have an entire country that’s behind our backs each and every day and that’s extremely special. I love our fans, I get out there and see them every off-season across the country and I can’t wait to get there in Montreal, then against the Yankees on Sunday.”

Stroman was expected to be named the team’s opening day starter when camp opened last month.

His shoulder injury changed that, limiting the right-hander to just two appearances so far, and only one against major league talent. Stroman made his spring training debut last week with two solid innings against the Canadian junior national team.

His pitch count will be raised to around 70 for Monday’s start. Then he’s penciled in to pitch next Sunday at home against New York, the last game of the opening four-game series.

Held to a strict 55-pitch count for Wednesday’s start, Stroman was lifted from the game after just 2 2/3 innings. He allowed five hits, two runs — only one earned — walked one, struck out one and allowed one homer. He threw 54 pitches, 32 for strikes.

The 26-year-old didn’t seem fazed by that lacklustre stat line, though.

“Just a matter of getting my body right,” he said. “The arm felt great. Just another step to getting out there on the mound in season.”

Manager John Gibbons was encouraged by Wednesday’s performance.

“I thought he finished good,” Gibbons said. “He made some good pitches. He struggled, the ball was up high a little bit in that first inning but I thought he finished really strong.”

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