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For Yankees’ Marcus Stroman, the short guy strikeout record is no small feat



After punching out five Astros on May 9, Marcus Stroman climbed to the top of a petite leaderboard.

The start — an otherwise off outing that left the Yankee self-critical after allowing four earned runs — gave Stroman 1,131 strikeouts for his career. That’s the most among pitchers who are 5-7 or shorter since 1901, according to Baseball Reference’s Stathead.com.

Stroman surpassed Dolf Luque, a fellow 5-7 right-hander. The Cuban-born, two-time World Series champ totaled 1,130 strikeouts over 20 seasons with the Boston Braves, Cincinnati Reds, Brooklyn Robins and New York Giants between 1914 and 1935.

“Oh? Fire!” an unaware Stroman said when the Daily News informed him. “Sick, man. That’s pretty cool. I like that!”

While the feat may sound like nothing more than a random stat that Stroman didn’t even know about, the 33-year-old quickly found meaning in the achievement.

Stroman, whose HDMH Apparel company stands for “Height Doesn’t Matter Heart,” thought back to the months leading up to his junior year at Duke in 2012. He had been speaking to major league teams, but they didn’t see him as a starter due to his stature.

“’Hey, you’re a one-inning guy. We see you as a high-leverage guy,’” Stroman remembers teams telling him. “’We see you [getting drafted] in rounds five to seven.’”

Stroman heard that he could be a “Tom Gordon-type,” a nod to the 5-9 reliever who won a Rolaids Relief Award and spent two seasons with the Yankees from 2004-2005.

While Gordon enjoyed a successful career as a reliever, Stroman wanted to start.

“Oh yeah,” he said when asked if those assessments pissed him off. “Younger me had a lot of fire. Let’s just say that. I’m way calmer now, but when I was younger, I used to pitch to prove people wrong. Now I don’t have that type of energy. Now I’m more pitching to prove myself right in a sense. But yeah, I hated it.”

Stroman took those evaluations as a challenge while transitioning to Duke’s rotation on a full-time basis as a junior.

“I was like, ‘Okay, that’s cool. I’m going to start this year. Come watch, and we’ll go from there,’” Stroman recalled telling teams. “Then I went out and I struck out the most guys in the country my junior year.”

Indeed, Stroman led all NCAA pitchers with 136 strikeouts that season. He also earned numerous All-America honors and made First Team All-ACC while recording a 2.39 ERA over 14 starts.

Stroman parlayed that performance into a first-round draft selection, going 22nd overall to the Blue Jays in 2012. The two-time All-Star is now in his 10th major league season.

He’s been a starter for all of them.

“For me, it was always about proving durability and longevity. So I feel like that’s just a testament to my health,” Stroman said of toppling Luque. “People don’t know how much goes into this, so it’s good to see it pay off, because this is a 24/7, 365 job for me.”

Stroman wanted to thank his personal trainer, Nikki Huffman, for his staying power. She oversaw his ACL rehab, which took place at Duke, in 2015 before becoming the Jays’ head athletic trainer. She then left Toronto to start her own business in 2019 — months after Stroman had been traded to the Mets.

“She’s everything for me,” Stroman said.

Stroman’s ACL rehab is when he began investing heavily in his nutrition, mental health and spirituality. Those deep dives led to him adding some quirky elements to his routine, including breathing exercises, candles, self-help books and grounding.

Plenty of MLB players get by without all that, but the 180-pound Stroman feels those things help him get the most out of his small frame.

“The way he goes about things and prepares and trains and treats his body lends itself to the consistency he’s had in his career,” Aaron Boone said before noting one doesn’t have to be a giant to thrive in the majors. “That’s always been one of the great things about baseball: you can be Aaron Judge’s size or Marcus Stroman or Dustin Pedroia.

“Greatness comes in a lot of shapes, sizes and packages when it comes to baseball.”

Stroman has been an example of that, and he’ll continue to be one as he keeps setting strikeout records for short guys.

While his first 1,131 strikeouts set the standard since 1901, two tiny pitchers were able to accumulate more prior to that.

As far as Baseball Reference is concerned, no short pitcher has more strikeouts than Bobby Matthews. Only 5-5, the righty totaled 1,528 strikeouts over 15 seasons with the Fort Wayne Kekiongas, Baltimore Canaries, New York Mutuals, Cincinnati Reds, Providence Grays, Boston, and Philadelphia Athletics between 1871 and 1887.

The 5-7 Ed Morris is sandwiched between Matthews and Stroman. The southpaw tallied 1,217 strikeouts over seven seasons with the Columbus Buckeyes, Allegheny City and the Pittsburgh Burghers from 1884-1890.

Told that he still trailed two pitchers from baseball’s earliest era, Stroman said that he’d like to outdo Matthews and Morris as well.

So long as his durability holds, he surely will.

“I hope to beat that,” Stroman said. “For the small people.”

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