Energetic setting: Marcus Stroman soaks in first opportunity to pitch at Wrigley
At roughly 12:40 p.m. on Sunday, Marcus Stroman jogged up the steps of the home dugout at historic Wrigley Field and stepped on the field.
As he raced through the left field grass, he motioned his arms up and down, pumping up the crowd that was strolling into the park and getting them onto their feet. In the background, Kanye West’s “Homecoming” blared through the speakers, the perfect anthem for Stroman’s debut at the Friendly Confines.
“Do you think about me now and then? Cause I’m coming home again,” played throughout the stadium.
Stroman wasn’t a returnee to the historic park, but within seconds of stepping foot on the field, it was evident he was, indeed, coming home.
“I had chills from the second I went out there,” Stroman said. “That’s something, like I said, to feel that authenticity and that fan base — it’s something that I’ve wanted my entire career.”
The newest starter in the Cubs’ rotation has made it clear that he feeds off the energy and vibes of wherever he is and that was especially true Sunday afternoon. As he warmed up and prepared for his first ever game at Wrigley Field — the only major league park he had yet to pitch in — he would stop and move his hands up and down to get the crowd rowdy once again.
“I been like this, my man, since forever,” Stroman said.
But Wrigley Field is different.
“I’m excited to be a Cub and I can’t wait to have that each and every time out,” Stroman said.
As he wrapped up his warmup, Stroman jogged to the 400-foot sign in center field, crouched down, tapped the sign a few times and said some words to himself.
“I do that every game,” Stroman said. “It’s just a couple words to myself, to my family and myself to get me in the right mental space.”
He got himself close to the perfect sweet spot, but the adrenaline that came from the environment and the excitement was palpable. It showed in his 1st inning.
His sinker and four-seam fastball in the 1st inning topped at 94 mph. In 2021, both pitches had an average velocity of 92 mph.
“Yeah, that’s all the energy going into it,” Stroman admitted. “I’m usually someone who tries to pitch as calm as possible, so I actually don’t like to be that revved up that early.”
So, Stroman tried to center himself. For him, that means calming himself and controlling his breathing. He did that after that 1st inning, pitching 5 innings of 1-run ball on 2 hits, while striking out 3 — his one mistake being a solo home run to Willy Adames in the 3rd inning.
Sure, Stroman would have like to have come out for more work, but he’s also aware of the long-term picture and isn’t trying to overwork himself on day 1.
“We wanna be healthy and be playing playoff baseball all the way into August, September and October so Rossy has to be the one to kind of adjust for health and make sure we don’t do too much,” Stroman said. “I have a lot of respect for that man, so I’ll give him the ball whenever he comes out.”
It was admittedly a little tough for Stroman pitching on extra rest — his last outing was April 4 in a simulated game at the Cubs complex in Mesa, Ariz. and he had made just three starts in Cactus League games.
“To be honest, my mechanics were pretty off,” Stroman admitted. “Pitching on seven days is tough sometimes. So yeah, back to the drawing board tomorrow. This is a journey. This is a process.”
Regardless of the performance, he’s not one to rest on the outings — good or bad.
“I turn the page the next day — not even — that night I’m pretty much already over it and working on what I can do for next start to make it better,” Stroman said. “I’m always adjusting and adapting, so yeah, I already had a few talks with our guys and we already know what we’re gonna be working on in the bullpen during the week.”
Stroman’s debut started off pretty well for both he and the Cubs.
If that start is any indication, there should be plenty of moments for Cubs fans to stand up and cheer for Stroman, regardless of if he’s pumping them up or not.
“To have that behind you, that’s hard to put into words, because that’s not uniform around the league,” Stroman said. “To have that home field advantage from the crowd to feel that energy each and every time, that’s super rare in baseball. I don’t know if you guys know that. You guys are spoiled with this crowd.
“I’m excited for each and every game.”