The "fantasy" of right-hander Marcus Stroman pitching for the Blue Jays this season might become a reality by the end of this month, if his stunning progress from an ACL injury continues.

Before spring training began, the Toronto Blue Jays were counting on Stroman to be one of their two or three top starting pitchers. On March 10, when it was announced that Stroman had torn the ACL in his left knee, the Blue Jays said they expected him to miss the entire 2015 season. Recovery from that kind of injury usually takes six months. Losing him was a huge blow to the Jays.

Stroman never conceded that his season was over, however, and with just less than a third of Toronto's schedule still to be played, he hasn't given up on pitching again in 2015. Stroman's desire to get back to the mound this season is producing results that, he says, are "shattering" the timetables of experts who didn't think he could do it. Included in that group, Stroman's surgeon, Dr. James Andrews, probably the foremost orthopedist in the United States. After getting clearance from Andrews on Monday morning, Stroman said he is set to begin an injury rehab assignment in Dunedin, Fla. on Tuesday.

The quickest return from an ACL injury, in recent memory, probably was that of Yovani Gallardo of the Brewers in 2008. He took four months and 23 days to return to the mound in a major league game -- and his was seen as an extreme case. Monday marks five months exactly since Stroman's injury. He might be ahead of schedule, but he's not in unprecedented territory. Surprising, though.

Just this past week, reporter Shi Davidi of Sportsnet said the Blue Jays were tentatively planning to get Stroman's rehab started Aug. 21. He's going to be early -- again. Despite hearing good reports about Stroman's workouts at Duke -- where he's also finishing up his degree -- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons has said any reference to Stroman pitching for the big-league team in 2015 comes from "fantasy land."

Knee-deep in reality, Stroman credits his own will and work ethic for getting him so close, so quickly.

If the fantasy were to come true, Gibbons said, Stroman probably would work from the bullpen. The Jays have undergone a transformation while Stroman has been out, adding Troy Tulowitzki to the lineup and lefty David Price to the rotation. They've also made a big move in the standings, and find themselves 1 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the AL East. Stroman would be returning to a team on the verge of its first playoff berth since 1993, when the Jays won the World Series for a second straight season. And he would make a formidable bridge between the Jays starters and closer Roberto Osuna.

Marcus Stroman
Marcus Stroman has believed in himself. (USATSI)

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