VIERA, Fla. - Asked following his final spring training start whether he feels he’s ready for opening day, Stephen Strasburg didn’t hesitate.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I’m ready to get out of Florida, that’s for sure.”
That makes two of us.
Strasburg - who was eased back a bit today by manager Davey Johnson - didn’t have his best stuff today in his last Grapefruit League appearance of 2012, throwing 67 pitches over four innings and giving up three runs (two earned) on five hits and a walk.
Those numbers pale in comparison to Strasburg’s last start, when he cruised through five scoreless innings, striking out five and walking one. But today’s results, as well as the righty’s un-Strasburgian total spring line of 11 earned runs in 23 2/3 innings (4.18 ERA), aren’t that important.
More important is that Strasburg feels strong and healthy leading into his opening day start against the Cubs on Thursday, and believes he accomplished all he needed to in his first spring training since having Tommy John surgery 18 months ago.
“Bottom line is, I got my work in,” Strasburg said. “Got the innings in. Felt good some days. Felt a little off on others. All in all, I’m happy with it. I think I learned a lot. And it’s still a huge learning process. I think I have a much better idea what makes me successful, and I’m just going to try to build off that.”
One key Strasburg got out of this spring is that he feels like it doesn’t take his arm as long to recover following a start as it did last year, leaving him feeling fresher a couple days later.
Strasburg had a slow start to spring (at least statistically), giving up eight earned runs on 11 hits in his first 9 2/3 innings. But he followed that up by allowing only one earned run in 10 innings over his next two starts, at times looking much like the pitcher the Nats have grown accustomed to seeing during the regular season.
“He went through that one spout where I thought he was overthrowing, trying to live up to the hype and all that,” Johnson said of Strasburg’s spring. “He settled down and ran off a couple good ones where he stayed within himself, hit his spots. In my mind, he’s ready. I think in his mind, too. He’s ready to start this thing off.”
Strasburg will have a treat Thursday - he’ll have his family out in Chicago to watch his opening day outing, which is the first time most of his family members, including his mom, have seen him pitch in person since his major league debut in 2010.
“It’s awesome,” Strasburg said. “It’s been a long time. I’m just excited for the experience. It’s something that doesn’t happen to everybody, starting opening day in Wrigley. It’s going to be fun no matter what.”
Asked if he had any exciting plans for his first ever trip to Chicago, Strasburg said that he might check out some restaurants in the area and see what the city has to offer on the Nationals’ off-day, which is scheduled the day after his April 5 start.
But at this point, the 23-year-old has something on his mind other than sightseeing.
“I haven’t really thought about that. I’m going to focus in on opening day,” Strasburg said.