Marcus Stroman will have a special fan in the stands when he takes the hill for his next start against the Houston Astros on Sunday.
Sean Snedeker, Stroman's pitching coach for three years at Duke University, will be making the trip to Minute Maid Park to see his former player dressed in a major league uniform for the first time.
Now a pitching coach at Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma, Snedeker has been planning the 795-kilometre trek from Tulsa to Houston since Stroman made his Blue Jays debut earlier this year.
"I've been talking to Marcus and his dad (Earl Stroman) quite a bit trying to figure out when I can see him pitch live, and I'm hopeful I'll be able to go to Houston next week," Snedeker said between tournament games in Oklahoma on Tuesday while still in the planning phases of his trip. "I wanted to be there for his major league debut, but with him coming out of the bullpen it was hard to know when he would pitch.
"It's a lot easier for me to get down to Houston (then fly to Toronto), but one way or another I will certainly see him before the season is over."
Snedeker confirmed Thursday that he would indeed be in Houston for Sunday's game.
Stroman, who was drafted by Toronto out of Duke in the first round (22nd overall) in 2012, has impressed so far in his young career.
The 23-year-old right-hander is 6-2 with a 2.12 ERA, a 1.00 WHIP and a strikeout per nine of 8.3 through 11 starts since beginning his major league career as a reliever in May (1-0 with a 12.79 ERA over 6 1/3 innings out of the pen).
Last week against the Red Sox at Rogers Centre, Stroman held the defending World Series Champions hitless through six innings and left the game after seven one-hit, scoreless frames. On Tuesday, facing Boston again — this time at Fenway Park — the rookie gave up just one run on six hits and struck out a career-high eight batters through seven innings.
The level of Stroman's success is impressive, but it hasn't surprised Snedeker one bit.
"It's been fun (to watch Stroman on TV). He's done extremely well," said Snedeker, himself a 1988 draftee of the Los Angeles Dodgers who spent five seasons pitching in the minor leagues.
"He has tremendous talent, he's got extreme confidence and that always helps. ... He's a tremendous worker, he wants to learn, and he believes in himself."
Snedeker, hired by Duke in 2007 after 13 seasons as a coach in the Chicago White Sox and Dodgers organizations, had not had one of his former pitchers make it to the big leagues until Stroman did this season.
But Stroman, the first first-round draft pick in Blue Devils history, almost wasn't a pitcher at all.
The Medford, N.Y., native arrived at Duke's campus in North Carolina as a shortstop out of Patchogue-Medford High School, and he played both positions for the Blue Devils until his junior year.
"We all (the coaches at Duke) kind of collectively decided, 'hey, you have a future on the mound. Let's concentrate on your pitching,'" Snedeker said of Stroman's transition. "So we put him in the rotation and he took off.
"It was really fun to see him get to the big leagues, and now it's really fun to see him trying to develop consistency and continue to learn as he gets out the best hitters in the world," he added. "It makes me really proud that I had a part in his development."
Aside from Stroman's work ethic and determination, Snedeker has also been impressed with the way his former player has silenced some of his critics.
Listed at five-foot-nine, Stroman has helped turn aside the notion that starting pitchers should be more physically imposing on the mound.
"I think with everybody, prior to him making the big leagues, the concern was his size," Snedeker said. "He can have a tendency to be flat in the zone and you certainly don't want to do that with major league hitters. But he's been able to really locate and keep the ball down for the most part.
"He's got the weapons to succeed, now it's just a matter of studying hitters, understanding what they're trying to do to him ... but his ability has always been pretty special."
BLUE JAYS NOTES
So far the Blue Jays have made only one trade ahead of Thursday's non-waiver deadline, picking up INF Danny Valencia from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for RHP Liam Hendriks and C Erik Kratz.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos said that Valencia's success against left-handed pitchers — .348/.380/.485 in his career — is what drew the club to him.
"We have a lot of left-handed bats on the roster right now and we certainly could use some help from the right side," Anthopoulos said on a conference call Monday. "We've been really trying to find all year ... that right-handed bat. He's had success at the big league level doing that and doing it well. It's a good fit for us."
Valencia made his Blue Jays debut against the Red Sox on Tuesday night, going 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter.
CANADIANS IN THE MAJOR LEAGUES
Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.) is back in Colorado's lineup after missing two weeks with a mild neck strain.
Morneau was 1-for-4 with two RBIs in his first game off the DL Tuesday night. The Rockies lost 4-3 to the Chicago Cubs.
NOTES: The Tampa Bay Rays designated LHP Erik Bedard (Navan, Ont.) for assignment on Monday, making room on the roster for Joel Peralta. Bedard had a 4.76 ERA and 1.49 WHIP in 15 starts and two relief appearances for Tampa Bay. ... Seattle Mariners OF Michael Saunders (Victoria) is expected to begin a rehab assignment this week. The 27-year-old has been on the DL with an oblique strain since July 11.
CANADIANS IN THE MINOR LEAGUES
Washington Nationals pitching prospect Nick Pivetta (Victoria) picked up his 12th win of the season Tuesday for the single-A Hagerstown Suns.
Pivetta went seven innings in the Suns' 8-4 win over Greenville, giving up all four runs and striking out seven batters.
The 21-year-old is now 12-6 with a 3.98 ERA through 20 games (19 starts).
-- Follow Melissa on Twitter @throwinsmoke