TAMPA, Fla. — Here’s the truth, Yankees fans:

Yankees starting pitcher Marcus Stroman has a 1.74 ERA in three Grapefruit League starts.AP

The Yankees never told Marcus Stroman they wanted him starting Opening Day as a replacement for Gerrit Cole, who will miss the first month or two of the season with an elbow injury.



Manager Aaron Boone and pitching coach Matt Blake’s choice all along was Nestor Cortes because it would be easier to line him up to start March 28 in Houston than Stroman, whose training schedule is way stricter.

But because Stroman has the most seniority of any healthy Yankees starting pitcher in age and experience, Boone went to him and said he was willing to give him the season-opening start.



This was all about Boone showing respect for Stroman, an offseason free agent signing for $37 million over two seasons.

Stroman responded by saying he was fine being slotted anywhere in the rotation, and he came off very sincere.

“I actually think Stro handled it great,” Boone said.

So does Brian Cashman, Blake and the many Yankees players who’d heard Stroman happily would start any of the first five games as opposed to being a prima donna.

In the end, the Yankees set it up the way they preferred all along:

Cortes will start the opener, followed by Carlos Rodon in game two and then Stroman, who also is lined up start the home opener six days later, Blue Jays at Yankees on April 6.

No matter, Stroman has been getting a lot of hate on social media since he said in a post-game interview that he turned down Boone’s offer to start on Opening Day.

Technically, yes, Stroman did pass on the opportunity. But again, the Yankees didn’t want Stroman starting Opening Day.

Hearing Stroman was getting unfairly bashed, Boone told what happened from start to finish following the Yankees’ 4-3 win over the Phillies on Monday with the hope that fans would understand this absolutely was not a pitcher refusing an Opening Day honor.

Told about the criticism that Stroman is getting, Boone said, “That’s ridiculous. Once we knew Gerrit wasn’t going to be in the mix for Opening Day, my initial thought is I wanted to keep Stroh (lined up to start the third and eighth games) just because of scheduling and the home opener was involved in that.

“So when I brought him in (for a meeting), just out of respect I wanted to say, ‘Hey, this is my plan for you, but I’m also open to Opening Day as well and we can probably work the schedule.’ His answer was as simple as. ‘Whatever you guys want me to do. I don’t have any (preference) and if you change your mind next week, I’ll be ready to go either way.

“So to me, it was the perfect answer of a team guy saying, ‘I’ll pitch wherever you want’ I wanted to keep him in that slot, especially with the home opener in mind. I’m pretty excited to have him going in that.”

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