I had a chance to catch up with No. 1 overall selection Stephen Strasburg as he embarks on his first professional spring training as a member of the Washington Nationals.
It was a busy offseason for Strasburg. He participated in the Arizona Fall League and married girlfriend Rachel Lackey last month in San Diego.
Strasburg signed a record $15.1 million contract with the Nationals in mid-August before getting his start in the Arizona Fall League, going 4-1 with a 4.26 ERA in five starts.
Strasburg is looking forward to getting started in Viera, Florida, and he’s flying to the Nationals’ spring training site Thursday.
He was enthusiastic about talking baseball as it all gets started this week.
“I am definitely excited to go out there for my first spring training,” Strasburg said.
But he doesn’t have expectations for his first season, outside of the plan the Nationals have in mind for him, only a few goals of his own.
“I know they have a specific plan in place for me and I will let it take its course,” he said.
“I think from a mental standpoint, getting used to pitching every five days will be the biggest change. I want to work on staying dedicated to that schedule. In college, it was one game per week and we did that for four months. I am ready for a different schedule.”
Even though he’ll be adjusting to changes from college to the big leagues, having a Hall of Famer as a coach in college has only helped Strasburg.
“Absolutely. Just talking to him day in and day out about the game. He gave me a ton of knowledge about what to expect, but really the biggest thing he tried to emphasize was how the game doesn’t change fundamentally from level to level.”
“I talk to Paul (Menhart, pitching coach of the Potomac Nationals and the AFL) a lot and have talked to (Nationals pitching coach Steve) McCatty a little bit this offseason. All of this is completely new to me so I am concentrating on doing what I am supposed to do and working hard,” Strasburg continued.
Heading into his first spring training, Strasburg also said the knee injury that cut off his time in the Arizona Fall League won’t be an issue.
“The knee is 100 percent. It has been fine for a while now.”
“I worked on rehabbing the knee since the end of Fall League. This included three days of physical therapy, four days of workouts in the gym, two days of yoga and every other day I had bullpen sessions.”
Despite the knee injury, Strasburg got his first taste of big league talent pitching in the AFL and his success there should give the prospect another level of confidence to build on - even though he knows what he’s capable of on the mound.
“I have always had a lot of confidence. It was great to face more talent in one place than I faced in college. Being alongside Storen, Espinosa, Marrero and meeting all the other guys was absolutely great too.”
“(My fastball) usually begins in the mid-90s to high 90s. Later on in the game, I have hit 100 to 101 miles per hour a few times.”
Following the AFL, Strasburg has kept himself busy during his first offseason, working out at San Diego State with former coach Tony Gwynn and keeping in touch with his new team.
“I have talked to a couple of guys during the offseason. There are not too many Nats players in San Diego where I work out at San Diego State, but Gwynn invites a lot of other pro players who do workout at the complex. But during Fall League I got to know all the Nats players very well, including Drew Storen, Danny Espinosa and Chris Marrero.”
So is Strasburg ready for his first ever major league spring training?
“It is going to be great. I am pretty in the dark about what spring training is going to be like, so I have talked to Gwynn about it and he has told me what to prepare for and what to expect.”
“That is the great part about this time right now. The draft and all that hype is in the past. I am ready to go.”