VIERA, Fla. - The vast majority of pitchers are already in camp at this point, and with the exception of non-roster invitee Chris Snyder, every catcher is already here ahead of tomorrow’s report date for pitchers and catchers.
Gio Gonzalez is set to arrive tomorrow, and will speak with reporters about his link to the anti-aging clinic Biogenesis, which is being investigated into its reported dealing of performance-enhancing drugs.
Gonzalez’s locker is right next to Stephen Strasburg, his good buddy. On the other side of Strasburg is the newest member of the Nationals’ rotation, Dan Haren, who has plenty of veteran wisdom which he can impart on Strasburg, if he so chooses.
Strasburg arrived in Viera yesterday, and is set to throw his first bullpen session in camp tomorrow morning with pitching coach Steve McCatty watching. Strasburg started playing catch late in December, and has already thrown six bullpens this year.
Now two and a half years removed from Tommy John surgery, Strasburg said this felt like his first normal offseason since debuting in the majors. He enters camp this year knowing there are no limitations on his innings this season, and he’ll be allowed to go full-throttle.
“It feels good,” a smiling Strasburg said during a light six-minute talk this afternoon. “It’s going to be a challenge, it’s going to be a test. I think I’m ready for it. I trained really hard this offseason to hopefully answer the bell and throw 200-plus innings and be the guy in the rotation that can be reliable and go six, seven, eight, hopefully nine innings this year every time out.”
This, of course, comes after Strasburg was shut down in September of last season after reaching the team’s predetermined innings limit. His last start was scheduled to come Sept. 12, but after watching Strasburg struggle in a three-inning outing against the Marlins on Sept. 8, manager Davey Johnson made the decision to put an end to Strasburg’s season.
Instead of pitching in the postseason for the first time in his big league career, Strasburg had to watch from the bench as the Nationals got eliminated by the Cardinals in the National League Division Series.
“I’m 100 percent over it,” Strasburg said of the way last year ended. “I think it was fun last year watching (the postseason), but I’m moving on. I’m excited to get into the season and see what we can do as far as having a target on our back now. It should be a good test for all of us.
“I think the only time (the shutdown) really came up was when random people asked me, and that was the number one question asked.”
In Strasburg’s 28 starts last season, he only pitched into the seventh inning five times. Other than improving his fastball command, Strasburg’s main goal entering this season will be finding a way to limit his pitch counts and work deeper into games.
“I think there were some games (last year) where I could have gone deeper, but they were thinking, ‘If we take him out now, we can give him one more start,’ ” Strasburg said. “But that’s just the nature of it. There’s going to be some games where you can’t find the strike zone and for some reason you’re stuff’s too good and they’re just fouling it off or you’re striking out a lot of guys. There’s going to be games, which happened a few times last season, where I’d be cruising and get through seven (innings) in right around 95 pitches. Of course I can go out and finish the deal, but as you can tell, Davey’s not the type to leave guys out there too long.
“It’s a long year. ... Being in the National League, there’s a little more strategy involved. I want them to know that I’m going to be 100 percent ready and (if) you want me to go out there for another inning, I’m your guy.”