VIERA, Fla. - The Nationals’ clubhouse at Space Coast Stadium is starting to become a bit more crowded, as a handful of pitchers have been filing in throughout the morning, checking in with team trainers and coaches, and getting their throwing programs started.
Christian Garcia, Matt Purke, Ryan Perry and Ryan Mattheus were among the guys to get in a bullpen session this morning, and Stephen Strasburg also took to one of the mounds out by the minor league fields this morning, throwing his first bullpen of spring.
Strasburg threw 37 pitches - mostly fastballs with a few changeups mixed in - during his session, with pitching coach Steve McCatty watching on from behind the mound.
After the session, Strasburg and McCatty had a brief chat, and Strasburg could be overheard saying, “I’m right where I want to be.”
While Strasburg kicked off his spring throwing program, Henry Rodriguez has yet to do so.
Rodriguez, who had surgery on his right elbow in late August to remove a loose body, said he feels better but is not 100 percent just yet. The flame-throwing righty hopes to get on a mound soon and compete for a spot in a crowded Nats bullpen, but he’ll need to get clearance from the training staff before doing so.
Sammy Solis is pretty familiar with the Nationals training staff down here in Viera; he spent all of last season here rehabbing after undergoing Tommy John surgery in March.
A second-round pick of the Nationals in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, Solis has been working hard over the last 11-plus months, and is in very good spirits as he closes in on full strength.
“Great man, I feel great,” Solis said. “Stronger than ever, actually. It’s almost as if (the torn UCL) didn’t happen.”
Solis stayed in Viera rehabbing through instructional league last year, and eventually went back home in mid-October. He took a month off to rest, and then got back after it.
The 24-year-old has been long-tossing lately and will soon start throwing off a mound. He hopes to begin throwing live batting practice in front of an L-screen in a month or two, and while he doesn’t think he’ll break camp with an affiliate, Solis might not need to miss too much of the season before returning to game action.
The goal for now, however, is to keep building up arm strength and get a feel for his secondary pitches.
“I play catch with a changeup right now. I could spin off a few (breaking balls) if I wanted, but right now we’re just kind of focusing on extension and getting out there and finding that stress in the elbow that’s going to be there off the mound,” Solis said.
Prior to going under the knife, Solis’ career was definitely heading in the right direction. He started the 2011 season at low Single-A Hagerstown, and he excelled after a mid-season promotion to high Single-A Potomac, going 6-2 with a 2.72 ERA in 10 starts.
The injury was a setback, for sure, but Solis is ready to prove he’s still on the right path.
“It was a shock when this happened because I’ve never had an arm problem in my life,” Solis said. “But it was fine. I was out here all season last year, rehabbing with (rehabilitation coach Mark) Grater, and it’s actually really nice, because not all teams have a rehab pitching coach. He’s out here with me one-on-one every day, which is beautiful. So as much as it sucked not going out during the season, it was fine with me. I was out here getting better and now I feel stronger than ever and I’m ready to go.
“From being in a sling and being immobilized completely, to now I’m playing catch and feeling better than ever, it’s great. It’s a blessing, for sure.”