Nationals pitcher Craig Stammen has spent most of his time this offseason working out in his hometown of Dayton, Ohio, or here in Washington as he gets ready for spring training next month. The right-hander feels very good after a successful transition to the bullpen in the second half of 2010.
"I have been in D.C. more than in the past," Stammen said. "I have been able to work with our strength coach, John Philbin, and get all my stuff done. It has been good. I feel like I have my body prepared for the upcoming marathon of a season. Hopefully, it is another one like last year."
Stammen moved from a starter spot to the bullpen in August and said he is fine with whatever role the Nats give him this season. As a starter, Stammen went 4-4 with a 5.06 ERA. As a reliever, Stammen appeared in 16 games and his strikeouts per nine innings almost doubled, from 5.1 as a starter to 9.8 as a reliever. His strikeout-to-walk ratio also went up to 2.78 as a reliever from 1.88 as a starter.
"I have always said I will do whatever they tell me to do as long as there is a jersey hanging in my locker, and that was my mentality," Stammen said. "It doesn't matter how many days in a row I pitched. I am going to give it my best. I think that is the value I have for myself as a major league baseball player in the future. It will be a lot of that again this spring training, going in maybe as a starter or a reliever. We don't know. I will probably get a shot at both and go from there."
Stammen felt coming out of the bullpen decreased the margin of error - even more than if you had a few innings to get things going as a starter.
"When you are in the middle of the game, boy, you can't be messing around," Stammen said. "You have to be at the top of your game from the first batter you face. I learned that pretty quickly in the first couple of outings. I think it will also help me as a starter because I was able to strike out a lot more batters as a reliever and kind of figured out how to finish guys when I needed to.
"I got strikeouts with guys in scoring position to save runs. If I go back to being a starter, that will only help me early on in the game if I am struggling and I just need to get the final out of the first inning to save a couple of runs or come in sixth or seventh inning when they are trying to start a rally. I am trying to put together a really good outing. I can be able to stop the bleeding right there and put it to rest."
Stammen has watched as the team has signed guys like Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche and feels these additions will make the Nationals better.
"I think the biggest value that they give us is how much they improve our defense from last year," Stammen said. "I am looking forward to playing with those guys and having a good 2011 and making the Nationals something to be feared in the National League East."
And without question, Stammen is happy he won't have to face Werth on the Phillies.
"It seemed like he would put a good swing on (every pitch I threw), or if he didn't, he got one of those hits that just kind of falls in. So it will be good to have him on my side of the field for a long, long time," Stammen said.
Stammen also knows how tough it was for guys like John Lannan and Ross Detwiler to fight through injuries last year and said staying injury-free is always a goal going into a new season.
"Being healthy and being able to go through an entire season without an injury - without anything - is something that creates true value for a pitcher," Stammen said. "If a team can count on you to take the ball every five days or come out of the bullpen and pitch three days in a row, that is something the team needs and something that builds a championship ballclub."