Thursday getaway day matchup features Nationals righthander Craig Stammen taking on Phillies righthander Kyle Kendrick.
Stammen made 19 starts last year and went 4-7 with a 5.11 ERA and did not pitch after August 29th. He had off-season surgery to clean out bone spurs in his elbow.
He said the pain had bothered him to the point where he couldn't straighten his arm out completely and every off day was an attempt to get back to feeling good instead of refining his pitches or working on new things.
He comes in to his first start following a solid spring training. On Saturday against the Boston Red Sox, after allowing a 2-run shot by Kevin Youkilis and a solo HR to J.D. Drew, he settled down and pitched well. Stammen ended up allowing just 3 hits in 5 innings.
"Those two pitches hurt me. Those two at bats hurt a little bit as far as giving up those three runs. But if I look at the outing as whole it actually went pretty well besides those two at bats.
I was at a pitch count number where I could have gone six or seven innings and kept us in the ball game. I can't really take too much negative out of that outing except those two bad pitches."
On beginning season by facing the Phillies:
"I am just going to have to mix it up against these guys. They are a really good hitting team. They really make good adjustments the second and third times through the lineup.
When I get through the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th innings, that's when I will see the true test of how I am going to be against this lineup. Utley, Howard and Rollins they really watch the game and make adjustments on how you pitch to them early and how you pitch to everybody else. It will be a real test for me."
On pitching to catcher Pudge Rodriguez:
"it has been great. He has been in every situation you could imagine in baseball. He has caught against every one of these hitters. He has a lot of knowledge that we can learn. The relationship between ptichers and catchers is very important so it is good to have somebody that knowledgeable behind the plate."
On getting pumped up for his first start and controlling his emotions:
"The Saturday game against the Red Sox was a good trial run. It got all the nervousness and pitching in the Park for the first time this season" out of the way.
"That was really good for me to get that done and get that opportunity. I am looking forward to this start to begin this season, to get off to a good start and getting us the W."
I also congratulated Craig on his 2010 NIT Champion Dayton Flyers. He is making sure someone back home will get him a championship t-shirt from the game.
Righthander Kyle Kendrick was 3-1 with a 3.42 ERA with the Phils in 2009. He started last season at Triple A Lehigh Valley where he went 9-7 in 24 starts with a complete game and a 3.34 ERA.
Kyle said before the game he is a lot different pitcher than he was in 2007 when his sinker was his best pitch and he felt he relied on it too much.
"My sinker was good. Maybe hitters didn't know me. But I didn't adjust. I had to adjust." Kyle went back to the minors and adjusted. He said he has added the cutter as one of his secondary pitches.
"Feels like a long time ago. I am a way different pitcher now. Pitching wise, as a person, maturity. I didn't even know what I was doing then. I have more of a plan now.
I am not just going out there and not knowing who is coming up, and just throwing my game. I have a game plan now. I have faced these hitters before. I have some secondary pitches. I couldn't grow a beard then, I could only grow a mustache (laughter).
On being a starter versus coming out of the bullpen: "I am starting again so it is nothing new. I know what I am doing. I am excited to go out there for the first time this season."
"My confidence was built in my second year. I am not a thrower with one pitch (any more). I feel more like a complete pitcher. I can go out there with some weapons and not just one pitch. I can go out there and definitely keep us in the game."
The Nationals travel to New York City following Thursday's game to begin a three game series against the Mets at Citi Field. Probable starters: Garrett Mock vs. Mike Pelfrey, John Lannan vs. Oliver Perez and most likely Livan Hernandez against Johan Santana.