I wanted to be grouchy about MLB scheduling three games yesterday, because I’m one of those extremely cool guys who believes Opening Day should be on a Monday and every team should play. And yet, it was hard to be in a bad mood while watching 24-year-old Marcus Stroman dice up the Rays.
Stroman needed just 93 pitches to get through eight innings, and looked to be on his way to a complete game before surrendering a homer to Corey Dickerson in the top of the ninth. The pitching itself was fun to watch—Stroman spent the whole game strafing the lower half of the zone with sinking fastballs and torturing hitters with a disappearing changeups and sliders—but it was his presence on the mound that made it impossible to look away.
Stroman is one of those guys who pitches like he got a hold of some really good drugs just before taking the field. He constantly twitches and compulsively pats himself on the chest. He does weird little hand motions and salutes nobody in particular. He smirks and nods and struts and yells at himself, sometimes so loudly that his opponents think he’s yelling at them, as Logan Morrison did in the bottom of the fifth inning:
Morrison thought Stroman was talking shit, but admitted after the game that he had forgotten about Stroman’s quirks. From the Tampa Bay Times:
“I just heard him yell something and caught him looking at me, so I thought he was talking to me,” Morrison said. “He said he wasn’t talking to me. It was my first time facing him and I forgot he did that whole ‘yell at himself’ thing, so maybe he was doing that, I don’t know.”
Stroman said that was what happened. “Maybe he thought I was yelling at him, I was yelling at myself,” he said. “’I’m a big self-motivation guy. Petty much I’m sure it was a miscommunication.”
The Slightly Unhinged Pitcher always makes for good TV, but it’s even more fun when the guy doing the routine can actually, you know, pitch. That’s why the highlight of yesterday’s game came in the bottom of the eighth, Morrison’s last at-bat of the game. Stroman struck him out on three pitches, and the cameras caught him woofing at himself after the second one.