Strasburg pleased with velocity, trying to improve breaking ball command

HAGERSTOWN, Md. -- Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg left his fastball up a bit and struggled with his breaking stuff in his third rehab assignment Wednesday night for the Hagerstown Suns against the Lexington Legends at Municipal Stadium.

Strasburg finished up with 1 2/3 innings, allowing four hits, five runs, all earned, two walks, three strikeouts and one wild pitch on 49 pitches, 29 for strikes.

Despite getting roughed up early, Strasburg was able to get his velocity in the 96-99 mph range, which has been a huge stepping stone for him now 11 months since Tommy John surgery.

Byron Kerr talks about Stephen Strasburg's tough night on the mound in his third rehab start

"The biggest thing that I am happy about is that here it is, I am not even a year, and my velocity is pretty much back to where it was," Strasburg said.

But the learning process continued in trying to locate his breaking stuff. His changeup - which clocked in at 90 mph in Potomac - and his curve ball were not hitting the spots he wanted them to from the outset.

"My breaking ball command isn't where it was," Strasburg said. "They say it is the last thing to come (back). I am just waiting for it to come back. It felt like it was back in Potomac but it kind of went backwards today."

But Strasburg took some solace because he believes he knows what was going wrong with his breaking pitches.

"It didn't feel like I was throwing it right, which I guess is a good thing," Strasburg said. "Because if everything felt good and I still couldn't throw it for a strike, I would be kind of nervous."

"I just have to get that feeling back. Once I can go out there and throw it more consistently for a strike, then that will enable me to throw a fast ball and not have them jump on it every time."

When looking into his pitching mechanics, has he made any major changes to his motion after the surgery? Is there any concern that his delivery before Tommy John contributed to his ligament problems?

Strasburg said because he is now in better shape physically, he was able to make a slight alteration in his delivery post-surgery. That has allowed him to take some pressure off of his repaired elbow.

"My arm works differently (after the surgery)," Strasburg said. "It is a lot more efficient. I used to kind of lead with the elbow and I come out and separate. That wasn't something I was trying to go out an do every time, it was just that fact that I was weak. I don't do that any more, so that is a good thing."

He now has three rehab starts under his belt. Just like wins for minor league teams, the pitching statistics are not driving him now. Although he knows September and a possible Nationals call is closer, Strasburg said the focus is on his next rehab start, which would be on Monday.

"All I know is that I got another outing (because) the rehab assignment is 30 days," Strasburg said. "It is going to be close. The end of the minor league season is coming up fast. I am just trying to get healthy."

"Unfortunately, I got hurt so late last year that I really can't do much this year. It is not like I am going to win a Cy Young in two weeks pitching in the big leagues. I am just trying to get better and get stronger and just trying to get back the feeling I had before and take that into the off season."

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