TORONTO — Marcus Stroman is confident his knee is 100 per cent healthy, confident his arm is in mid-season form and confident he can join the Blue Jays' starting rotation for the final month of the season.
"A lot of hard work, motivation and faith, that's basically all it took. Two-a-days, six days a week for four months straight will do the job," the 24-year-old Stroman said of his recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. "A lot went into it, a lot of pain, but we're in the position we thought we'd be in and it's exciting.
"I'm in mid-season form, 100 per cent. Every single pitch is ready, I'm ready (and) the knee is ready. I'm ready to go."
Stroman took the mound for his first rehab start on Wednesday with the class-A Lansing Lugnuts. The right-hander threw 4 2/3 no-hit innings, walking one, striking out seven and throwing 44 of his 69 pitches for strikes.
The five-foot-eight, 180-pound Medford, N.Y., native was back in Toronto on Friday to throw a bullpen session. He will join triple-A Buffalo for his next rehab start on Monday in Pawtucket, R.I.
If all goes well on Monday, manager John Gibbons believes the Blue Jays could go to a six-man rotation for the final weeks of the regular season with the addition of Stroman.
"We've got some older guys too now that could use an extra day here or there, especially at this time of the year," said Gibbons. "Not ideal because you throw them a little bit off of their schedule, but I think the extra day has proved here in the last couple years, when we give guys an extra day (of rest), they've benefited from it."
Stroman never put down the ball during his four-months of rehab, and even worked a change-up into his repertoire
"I was throwing all through the rehab process," he said. "Even when I couldn't walk, I was still working on my pitches, still making sure that my grip stays strong so my arm was being built through the entire process. It was just a matter of fact when I got my knee ready to go, then lets hit the floor running."
When Stroman was injured while fielding a ground ball during a bunting drill in spring training, many believed his season was done. Stroman used that as motivation.
"When they said my season was done, I knew my season wasn't done, but obviously it's an ACL, it's a major injury," he said. "Once my ACL went out, I got a plan together, I got my plan together, go back to Duke. It wasn't fun, but it was well worth it.
"This is the hardest thing I hope I'll ever have to do in my life. It was extremely intense. I can't put it into words."
In the middle of his workouts, Stroman managed to cram in five classes over two summer sessions at Duke University. The sociology major finished with a 3.25 grade point average and plans to attend his convocation next May.
Dhiren Mahiban, The Canadian Press