Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg is scheduled to make his first major league start since August 21, 2010 this Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers. It will be 368 days since he underwent Tommy John surgery and he said Saturday that he is a different pitcher as he makes his second season debut with the Nationals.
"I kind of know what to expect (this year)," Strasburg said. "I am just going to go out there and do my thing. It is something that I worked extremely hard for. That was my goal this whole time was to get back out here and pitch in September. I am glad I am able to do it."
Strasburg spoke following his Saturday side session that manager Davey Johnson said went well because "nobody came running over to me after he was done."
"It went really well," Strasburg said. "I am just going out there and maintaining the same routine I have been doing. That is all I got to do to know that I will be fresh on Tuesday."
It is an exciting moment for Strasburg and the day he has been waiting for during the long and strenuous rehab process in Florida. Strasburg credited his wife, Rachel, for helping him through those quiet summer months with the team off playing their regular season schedule.
"I learned a lot of patience," Strasburg said." I learned that you are really not going to see the big improvements day in and day out. You just got to trust the work."
Strasburg mentioned several times during his rehab starts in Single-A Hagerstown and Single-A Potomac that he was working on getting his command to return on his breaking pitches and his curve has looked very good in his last two starts.
"I feel very confident (in them)", Strasburg said. "That is the one thing, once you start throwing some good ones, you just got to hit the repeat button. I was able to go out there in Syracuse and Harrisburg and throw some good ones and get the feeling back. It is still a work in progress. That is how it is going to be for a few more months. Hopefully, I will be ready to go and 100 percent in spring training 2012."
Strasburg said he has four starts remaining, which would be in line with what Ben Goessling reported yesterday and one likely scenario would be all home games on September 6, 11, 16 and 23 at Nationals Park.
However, Johnson would not confirm Strasburg would have only four starts or that they would all be at home.
Strasburg did confirm that he will be handled in a similar fashion as was right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, who was shut down last Sunday after eclipsing 160-plus innings in his return from the same surgery.
"I am going to be on an (inning) limit (in 2012) like he was this year," Strasburg said. "I am looking further ahead to where we aren't going to have the reins pulled on us where we will be able to go out there 200 innings every year and help this team get to the playoffs and hopefully win a would series some day."
But the bottom line is one year after 12 starts with the Nationals, Strasburg said the rehab process helped him get in the best shape of his life. He feels that focus he gained this summer will pay dividends come Tuesday and beyond.
"Last year, I was still kind of feeling it out, trying to see what it took to get through a season," Strasburg said. "I fell short, unfortunately. But, I have learned from it and what it takes to go a whole year and be healthy."