TORONTO — The signs of Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman's ascension are everywhere you look at Rogers Centre.
He's featured prominently on a large banner outside the stadium. Get off the elevator at field level and he's in full howl mode on a large mural. He was the lone player to hold a pre-workout media availability Thursday.
All of 24 years old, Stroman has become one of the faces of the franchise. After a brief but impressive run in September and the playoffs last season, he's ready for his new role as staff ace.
He'll get the start in Friday night's home opener against the Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre.
"My mentality is to take the ball and go nine every single time I go out there," he said. "That won't change at all and (I plan) to have that lion mentality out there through it all and just to keep my brothers in position to win.
"I just take that approach into every game."
A live wire on the mound, Stroman has electric stuff and the energy to match. He'll bound off the hill after a strikeout, shout at himself to get pumped up, all while pounding away at a big wad of bubble gum.
He's fun to watch and leads a team that appears primed to take a run at a second straight division title.
"I think the mentality and the hunger and the motivation with this group is very different from any other teams," Stroman said. "We don't get distracted by any of that outside noise. We have one purpose when we show up each and every day.
"We take that mentality in the clubhouse and we go about our business as if we're going out there to dominate each and every day."
The Blue Jays split their season-opening four-game series at Tampa Bay. Stroman worked eight impressive innings on opening day and picked up five strikeouts in a 5-3 win.
A charged atmosphere is expected for the Blue Jays' first home game since Game 5 of the American League Championship Series last October. Toronto dumped Kansas City 7-1 but the Royals ended the Blue Jays' playoff run with a 4-3 win in Game 6 at Kauffman Stadium.
Many baseball observers expect the power-heavy Blue Jays to return to the post-season. With former ace David Price now with the Red Sox, the title of No. 1 starter has been given to Stroman.
"As far as the mental side of it and what maybe that title means to him, I think he'll thrive off that," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons.
Stroman missed most of last season after suffering a knee injury at spring training. He continued to rehab the knee in the off-season and worked out regularly with teammate Aaron Sanchez.
"My body and my knee are a lot stronger than it was at the end of last year," Stroman said. "So that was first and foremost was to be in the weight room as much as possible, and to make sure that my body was in a position to come out here and be able to go 200-plus (innings) and be able to go seven, eight, nine (innings) every five days."
The Red Sox have split their first two games of the season. Boston right-hander Joe Kelly is tabbed to get the start against Stroman.
After arriving home the night before, the Blue Jays held a 90-minute workout on Thursday afternoon at Rogers Centre. A sellout crowd of about 50,000 fans is expected Friday night.
"We feed off that energy from the crowd and we love playing at home," Stroman said. "The louder that place is, the better we feel our chances are to win. So we can't wait to get out there and hear that crowd screaming."
Notes: A new dirt infield has been installed at Rogers Centre this year. ... Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson (calf) and outfielder Michael Saunders (hamstring) remain day-to-day with injuries.
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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press