TORONTO - They thought Marcus Stroman could be really good. [url=http://www.discountaustraliashoes.com/cheap-vapormax-fake.html]Vapormax Store[/url] . The young man, never lacking confidence, thought he could be really good. But there were issues the young pitcher needed to work out. Would Stroman be able to stay on top of his four-seam fastball often enough to prevent it from riding up in the zone, which had been a repeated issue for a pitcher of his diminutive size? Did his stuff, a plus fastball and a nasty curveball/slider combination, translate better to late-game relief or would he be a starter? Since his second recall and insertion into the starting rotation, Stroman hasnt been really good. Hes been great. And he isnt the pitcher they thought he would be. He isnt the pitcher he thought he would be. Whats changed? Stroman has developed a sinking fastball which, for the 23-year-old Long Islander, is a game-changer. "That pitch has allowed me to be so much more efficient," said Stroman. "Whereas everyone used to say he cant go deep into games, go deep into games, hes too whatever, whatever, whatever, its really allowed me to go deep into games because its a pitch that I can rely on to keep on the ground. I get big double plays when I need them with that pitch and I get a lot of early outs. I dont have to be as fine with that pitch when Im throwing it." Exhibit A of the new, efficient, Stroman is his most recent start, a 93-pitch, three-hit shutout of the Chicago Cubs on Monday night. He recorded 15 groundball outs (14 groundballs, one of which was a double play) and other than a first inning comeback line drive which almost beheaded Stroman, nary a ball was hit hard. You get the sense Stroman is surprising even himself. "I would have never gone 93 pitches, nine innings ever the way I used to pitch," said Stroman. "It wasnt realistic. I was a four-seam guy; I was a strikeout guy. I always had pretty good control but I always used to have to worry about really locating my heater." The metamorphosis began in the most innocent of ways. It was around the All-Star Break when Stroman, coming off a trying start against the Angels in Anaheim, was sitting in his apartments living room with a baseball in hand. He was, as he said he often does, messing around with different grips. He came across something that "felt right" in his hand. Stroman decided he would take the grip into his next bullpen session. He liked what he saw. He didnt change his release point. The ball naturally sank. Confident he could execute the pitch in major league game action, Stroman experimented in his first post-All-Star Break start, which featured seven innings of shutout ball in a Blue Jays 4-1 win over Texas on July 19. Stroman knew he had something when he froze Shin-Soo Choo with a full count sinker. "He just took it and walked back because Id never thrown it," said Stroman. "That might have been the first one I threw in that game, the second one I threw in that game and after I threw that pitch and I had that movement on it and I saw his take, thats when it started to take off." Stroman has trouble describing how he grips the pitch. "Its not your conventional two-seam by any means," said Stroman. "Thats what I used to try and throw and I had no success with it. I hold all my pitches pretty weird. I kind of just threw my spin and torque the ball in my hand like I do a lot of my pitches with the two-seam and felt really comfortable." Stroman was a high strikeout, high flyball minor league pitcher. Now, hes working a 55-percent groundball rate. The punch outs still will be there but they wont be as frequent. Stromans struck out 20.7-percent of big league hitters hes faced. He fanned 30.8-percent of hitters at Triple-A Buffalo but that was back when he was a different pitcher. Last year, at Double-A New Hampshire, his strikeout rate was 28.1-percent. Some of the strikeout regression is, no doubt, the result of facing big league hitters. But the new approach factors in, too. Stroman still has the plus four-seam fastball. Hes still got his filthy curveball and slider. The sinker gives him yet another look, another way to get hitters out. He can never have too many options. "Im still throwing all the pitches, it just gives me another pitch to rely on too," said Stroman. "Im always going to throw all my pitches. Im not necessarily going to take pitches out but having a sinker definitely helps, especially since Im a starter and the whole goal of being a starter is to keep your team in the game, late into games." [url=http://www.discountaustraliashoes.com/cheap-new-balance-fake.html]New Balance Outlet Store[/url] . Clevelands manager had just watched his team lose 5-3 to Kansas City, which completed a 2-6 homestand and dropped the Indians 2 1/2 games behind Detroit in the AL Central. [url=http://www.discountaustraliashoes.com/cheap-vapormax-fake.html]Discount Vapormax[/url] .C. -- North Carolina State coach Mark Gottfried said his team had a "golden" opportunity to help its NCAA tournament chances. [url=http://www.discountaustraliashoes.com/cheap-air-force-1-fake.html]http://www.discountaustraliashoes.com/cheap-air-force-1-fake.html[/url] . -- Jane Kish stopped all 25 shots she faced as the Weyburn Gold Wings blanked the Sudbury Lady Wolves 3-0 on Friday to advance to the gold-medal game at the Esso Cup.CHICAGO -- The Portland Trail Blazers had dropped three straight games and appeared in danger of losing considerable playoff ground in the tough Western Conference before LaMarcus Aldridge returned to the lineup on Thursday. Two games later, the Blazers seemed to have turned things following a pair of comfortable wins, the latest a 91-74 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Friday night. Is the turnaround as easily explained as the return of an All-Star performer? Well, yeah, the Blazers say. "Other than us getting our best player back, which changes everything, I think our urgency is going up," Damian Lillard said. "After the loss at Orlando (on Tuesday), we realized, All right, its time to turn it around now. We cant wait and we cant have all of these lackadaisical efforts. "Everybodys got on the same page and, during these last two games, weve really defended and done everything together." Mo Williams scored 18 points to lead five Blazers in double figures. Lillard had 16 points, Nicolas Batum and Robin Lopez each had 13, Wesley Matthews had 11 and Thomas Robinson added 10. The Blazers got past the Bulls easily, despite a quiet night from Aldridge, who was playing just his second game after missing two weeks with a back injury. He had five points and 13 rebounds in 29 minutes after having 25 points and 16 rebounds in Atlanta. "His presence on the court puts pressure on everyone," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "He does a lot more to help us win than just his field-goal percentage." No one in the Bulls locker room would disagree. "He is a load down there; a great player," Joakim Noah said. "You can tell when he is on the court, whether he scores or not. He changes their team. He is one of the best in the game." Carlos Boozer had 16 points and 12 rebounds in 24 minutes to lead Chicago. D.J. Augustin had 15, Taj Gibson 13 and Noah added 11 points and 10 rebounds. The Bulls, who had a chance to clinch a playoff spot with a win on their own, lost both games of the season series and have dropped 11 of 13 overall against Portland, including five of seven at the United Center. With the New York Knicks loss to the Phoenix Suns, the Bulls still managed to wrap up a playoff spot. [url=http://www.discountaustraliashoes.com/cheap-jordan-1-fake.html]Discount Air Jordan 1[/url]. Before Friday, the Bulls had been 10-3 in their last 13 home games, averaging 96.8 points on 44.5 per cent shooting during that span. But it was apparent early that they wouldnt approach either of those marks in this one. "We were flat," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "They had something to do with that." Getting off to fast starts was one reason behind the Bulls recent home success, but they were cold at the start, going 8-of-23 (34.8 per cent) from the field in scoring 16 points in the first quarter. Minus Boozers 10 points on 5-of-10 shooting, the rest of the team managed just six points on 3-of-13 shooting. The Blazers had a 47-36 halftime lead and then took charge at the start of the third quarter, beginning the second half with a dunk by Lopez and a 3-pointer by Batum to make it 52-36. In all, Portland stretched the run to 15-2 for a 62-38 lead. The Bulls ended the third quarter on a mini-spurt -- including a three-point play on a dunk and foul by Gibson -- to trim the deficit to 73-58 entering the fourth quarter. The Bulls got the ball first in the final quarter and had a couple of inside looks on that initial possession, but came up empty. Lillard then essentially dashed any hopes of a huge rally with a 3-pointer at the other end to make it 76-58. The Bulls failed to score 80 points for the 11th time this season and are 0-11 in those games. "Our defence tonight was just an example of everybody being there for each other," Lopez said. "When you know there is someone behind you, it gives you the confidence to be aggressive." NOTES: Bulls G Derrick Rose, out for the season with a torn right meniscus, suffered the injury in the first game against the Blazers on Nov. 22 and had surgery three days later. ... Thibodeau was asked if he was taking part in the Bulls NCAA pool. "I didnt get a chance to participate," the coach said. "I was looking at that Quicken Loans one. I think I would have won that." That was the contest in which Warren Buffett offered $1 billion to anyone who could fill out a perfect bracket. No one made it through the third day without at least one game wrong. ... Portland entered with a 20-18 road record but was 2-7 in last nine. ' ' '