Cubs’ Marcus Stroman receives warm welcome in return to Toronto

TORONTO – Blue Jays fans’ warm reception for Marcus Stroman started as soon as the Cubs landed at the airport. Stroman said the customs agents told him they missed him.

Three years after he left, Stroman returned to the Rogers Centre mound for the first time Tuesday, in the Cubs’ 5-3 loss to the Blue Jays. He allowed one run in five innings.

“It’s pretty surreal,” Stroman said Monday of being back in Toronto. “… I love everything about the city of Toronto. I love the country of Canada. So to get back here, around the culture, around the people, to be in Yorkville walking around this morning. … It’s all love here.”

The Blue Jays had drafted him out of Duke in 2012. He’d helped end a two-decades-long playoff drought. And he’d spent the first 5 1/2 seasons of his MLB career in Toronto before the Blue Jays traded him to the Mets in 2019.

He tweeted out thanks to the fanbase Monday afternoon, and the “welcome” responses poured in.

“That only makes me more excited because they know the type of energy that I go out there and play with each and every day,” Stroman said. “And they know how hard I work to perform for this organization.”

At the ballpark, fans called him over by name, and he signed autographs through the net separating the stands from the field.

One young fan burst into tears when Stroman walked over to greet him. He held a homemade poster board sign that declared Stroman was the reason he loved baseball. He offered the United Kingdom-based family tickets to the London Series between the Cubs and Cardinals next year.

“The thing that stood out to me was that, the love that they gave him,” Cubs manager David Ross said, “a guy that started here, pitched big games for them, came up here, came back from serious [ACL] injury really fast to help them chase a playoff berth and get into the postseason. … To see him get rewarded for that here I thought was really cool.”

In addition to contributing to back-to-back trips to the American League Championship Series, Stroman watched the core of the current Blue Jays team come together. He had a front-row seat to the beginnings of Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s, Lourdes Gurriel Jr.’s and Jordan Romano’s careers, to name a few.

“Such a young, unbelievable group of guys,” Stroman said. “And obviously we knew Vladdy was going to be the guy to kind of build around. And to see everybody else performing at a high rate, to see Romano in the closer role, those are all guys I was just training with, guys that are asking me how to get to the big leagues at some point.”

As of Tuesday, the Blue Jays were sitting in the third American League Wild Card spot.

“I’m hoping the Blue Jays figure it out and slide in the playoffs and do some really special things going forward, truly,” Stroman said. “If there’s one team I’m rooting for in the playoffs, it’s Toronto.”

At this point in the year, however, the rebuilding Cubs are playing to disrupt other teams’ playoff hopes. And Stroman did what he could to stand in the Blue Jays’ way.

After allowing two hits and issuing a walk in the first inning, Stroman retired 11 straight batters. Two of his former teammates had a hand in the Blue Jays’ only run against him. Guerrero Jr. hit a groundball single up the middle to drive in Danny Jansen in the fifth inning.

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