ATLANTA — Marcus Stroman’s preparation for his start against the defending World Series champion Braves at Truist Park on Tuesday night began as soon as he woke up that morning.
“I’m someone if you wake up and you get fresh, I feel like you feel better about yourself,” the Cubs right-hander said. “I’m definitely someone who, every day I pitch, I try to put on something fresh that matches my mood that day.”
Most fans are accustomed to seeing Stroman’s distinctive durag poking out from behind his cap while pitching, but that’s only part of his style. His accessory after Tuesday’s 3-1 loss was an Enfants Riches Deprimes “ERD” hat that he originally bought for the velvet feel and look. The text on the front read “Wasted Tears.”
The short phrase mirrors Stroman’s view toward his uneven starts this season, including his most recent loss.
“I think ‘Wasted Tears’ means exactly what it says,” said Stroman, who allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits while striking out three and issuing no walks over six innings in a quality start. “I think a lot of people put themselves in a position where they’re either stressed or overwhelmed. I think that ‘Wasted Tears’ should be looked at as the positive moments, or smiles, in that sense, honestly.”
The 30-year-old gave up one run on two hits and three walks over five innings for a no-decision in his first start of the season. But in the two starts that followed, he was tagged for five runs in four innings on April 15 to take the loss against Colorado and then allowed eight runs (seven earned) over 4 1/3 innings in an April 20 defeat against Tampa Bay. He had not surrendered five or more earned runs in back-to-back games since the 2018 season, when he was with the Blue Jays.
“I think the mental point of that is just knowing that I’ve been through spurts where I haven’t been great, and then I’ve always come out on the other end pretty well,” Stroman said. “So I look at adversity as something to grow from. I look at bad times as something to turn into better times. So I never shy away from struggle, you know, or adversity. I truly believe that it makes you a better individual.”
Although Stroman has yet to earn his first win in his first season with the Cubs, he’s made progress with his mechanics.
“It looked like he had a nice rhythm about him — a lot of first-pitch strikes, no walks, so a really nice performance,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “I thought he gave us a really good chance to win a ballgame, looked like he was in control pretty much the whole game.”
But Stroman’s not satisfied.
“It’s getting better. I’m still not where I want to be, but definitely making strides in the right direction,” Stroman said. “As far as how I feel, I definitely need to do some work.”
Ross is remaining patient. He knows Stroman’s track record.
“[Stroman’s] starting to get a little more comfortable, had some confidence out there tonight,” Ross said. “We trust in the stuff. I think he’s kind of growing into being a guy that has to continue to have success out there and believing in himself and having outings like tonight to be able to execute those pitches.”