VIERA, Fla. - Stephen Strasburg is itching to get the season started. His internal clock, if not his pitch count Saturday night against the Astros, tells him the season should be starting soon, not be more than two weeks away.
So what did he take out of tonight’s effort, in which he went deeper into a game than any other Nationals starting pitcher this spring, and recorded eight strikeouts, the most by any Washington hurler in Grapefruit League play?
The 93 pitches he threw, 64 of them for strikes, were less important than how he felt - and what he proved to himself, and hopefully his teammates, pitching coach and manager. He allowed five hits and a run in 5 1/3 innings, walking one.
“I don’t know what my velocity is,” he said, though he was reportedly in the 94-95 mph range much of the night. “I’m not really worried about that. It’s going to come with time. I think the biggest thing is just hitting my spots and executing pitches and I’ve been able to do that the last couple of times out. I know it’s going to get a little better as time goes on.”
Saturday’s goal was to again work on pitching from the stretch, which has become tops on Strasburg’s to-do list this spring. So it was fortuitous that two batters into the game, the Astros had runners on first and second after a pair of singles, allowing the right-hander to focus on his stretch mechanics.
He made a minor adjustment in positioning on the rubber, moving slightly ahead of the slab, with positive results.
“I felt like when I drive I was pushing more out than down on the mound,” Strasburg explained. “So I put a little more on top of the rubber and it helped me use the slope to get on top of it.”
That he got to work into the sixth was an added bonus - one that he hopes will show the Nats he can be a workhorse after a season in which his innings were limited coming off Tommy John surgery.
“I’m not trying to go out there and get used to throwing (93) pitches,” he said. “You look at some of the top pitchers in the game and they throw at least 110 every time out. I’m going to be prepared for it. I’m not saying they’re going to let me do it, but I’m going to be physically ready for it.”