The Nationals got their third win of the spring on Friday night with a 13-5 victory over the Cardinals, but no matter what else happened on the field at Space Coast Stadium, there was only going to be one major storyline: Stephen Strasburg. Last year's No. 1 overall pick was making his third, his longest and possibly his last big-league start of the spring, and it couldn't have begun much worse. Strasburg gave up homers to the first two batters he faced, with Tyler Greene sending the game's first pitch over the left-field wall. But he rebounded after that, striking out eight, showing willingness to pound the strike zone and alternating quick innings with power-pitcher turns. After the rough start, it was as dominant and as major-league ready as Strasburg has looked all spring.
"He settled down, threw strikes, had some relatively quick innings," Riggleman said. "He had some great depth on - I think they were changeups - but the bottom was dropping out of them. Just a lot of real quality pitches tonight."
On with the awards. Guess who gets the first one.
Stephen Strasburg: You guessed right. The pitcher gave up back-to-back home runs to start the game, but the way he pitched after that was nothing short of dominant. He struck out eight batters in four innings, striking out four in a row at one point, and only had three balls hit out of the infield against him after the homer. Fifty-three of his 73 pitches were strikes, and he struck out Jason LaRue to finish a 10-pitch at-bat. Strasburg might have made his last big-league start of the spring, but once again, he made an impression. "
Ryan Zimmerman: With a 2-for-2 night at the plate, a walk, and three runs, Zimmerman continued his strong spring, and showed again he's ready for the season. He's been outstanding all spring, and Friday night was no exception.
Brian Bruney: The right-hander had another sharp outing, pitching a perfect ninth in the Nats' win and dropping his spring ERA to 3.60. He's looked strong in the last week, a comforting sign for the Nationals as Matt Capps and Sean Burnett struggle.
Sean Burnett: The left-hander gave up another two runs in the eighth inning, raising his spring ERA to 15.75. He has been done in by elevated fastballs all spring, and though he's still got a couple weeks to get things together, you'd like to see it soon.
Ian Desmond: He's had a great spring, but he's tailed off this week, and Friday night was maybe his worst game of the spring. Desmond made an error, went 0-for-4 and left six runners on base, though he did drive in one and score once. He's
Strasburg vs. Pujols: It didn't happen, for the second time this week, because the Cardinals left Pujols at home, for the second time this week. We get that everybody protects their players in spring, and many of these games don't feature top-notch lineups. But man, it would have been fun to watch Strasburg and Pujols go at it once in the two games the right-hander faced the Cardinals this week.
What to watch:
The story on Friday night was Strasburg, and it will probably continue to be Strasburg for the next few days. Jim Riggleman is meeting with several coaches and front-office members on Saturday morning to talk about the next round of cuts, and the plan for Strasburg is certain to come up. No one with the organization expects Strasburg to start the year with the team, though there's little else he could have done this spring to make his case. Riggleman said as much on Friday night, adding Strasburg "has done everything you want him to do," and the only flaw he could find was to slow Strasburg's delivery with runners on base down by one or two tenths of a second. Strasburg gave up two homers, but his stuff and his approach to the game was as good as it's been all spring. Pudge Rodriguez had him throwing back-door curveballs, back-foot sliders to lefties, changeups to righties and a number of other different combinations of pitches that could make Strasburg even more dangerous. If he goes to the minors, it's not going to be for long, and it was as apparent on Friday night as it's been all spring: Strasburg gets how to pitch. Even if he starts in the minors, he'll soon have the chance to show what he's got on the big stage. "He's going to go to the minor leagues, have some starts over there, and come to our team soon," Rodriguez said.
The Nationals face the Marlins at Space Coast Stadium; first pitch is at 1:05, and Garrett Mock will make his fourth start of the spring.
The recap of tonight's live thread is here, and audio from Riggleman's pre- and post-game press conferences can be found here. Talk to you tomorrow!