Strasburg fans two in three scoreless
Prized prospect has yet to allow run in two spring starts
VIERA, Fla. -- Making his second start of the exhibition season, Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg allowed the Cardinals just two hits in three scoreless innings in a 7-3 loss Sunday afternoon.
Strasburg's fastball was clocked no higher than 97 mph and he threw 28 of 49 pitches for strikes. He faced 11 hitters and threw seven first-pitch strikes.
"He was every bit as good as the last outing," manager Jim Riggleman said. "He threw a few more pitches to get through it, but I still saw a good breaking ball, he had good velocity and he gets ground balls. It's very encouraging that the guy is a power pitcher and has the potential to get some quick innings with a low pitch count. We saw more of that today."
Strasburg acknowledged that he was anxious before the game, but managed to channel his emotions. He even refused to give any excuses about the high wind gusts of wind that gave pitchers on both sides fits on the mound.
"I went out there and I was more comfortable," Strasburg said. "I just went out there trying to throw strikes and get some good ground balls in key situations. When you have a crosswind, it's difficult to adjust to.
"When the wind is going with you, it usually doesn't have much of a difference, but if the wind is in your face or going across, it's going to put more movement on the ball. You have to go out there and pitch with what you got and compete. Not every game is going to be perfect -- 72 degrees, no wind and not a cloud in the sky."
Strasburg gave all he had as St. Louis had problems figuring him out. In the first inning, Skip Schumaker and Felipe Lopez grounded out to Strasburg for the first two outs. But after Allen Craig singled and Colby Rasmus walked, David Freese struck out to end the frame.
Strasburg had an easier frame in the second. After Nick Stavinoha singled, Yadier Molina struck out looking on an 80-mph curveball, while Joe Mather hit into an inning-ending double play.
"I only saw one pitch. I saw his fastball, so I was trying to be aggressive early," Stavinoha said. "That was it. Obviously he has a good arm, but I didn't see anything else. I was watching what pitches he had. I don't know what he was throwing to lefties, but he threw a couple of sliders, curveballs, whatever they are, breaking balls to righties, but I wanted to hit the fastball."
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Strasburg's third inning was his easiest, as he retired the side in order. He has now pitched five shutout innings this spring.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa came away impressed by what he saw from the young right-hander.
"He's very special," La Russa said about Strasburg. "Every bit that's been said about him or written about him, they got it all right. Very special. A lot of guys throw 96. It's where he's throwing it. It's all where it should be, because he's got it all."
Strasburg is clearly Washington's best starter this spring, but don't make that statement to Strasburg. He will tell you that it's only Spring Training. In his mind, the games count when the regular season starts.
"It really doesn't mean anything," Strasburg said about the positive results on the mound. "It's trying to out there, execute pitches, try to throw as many quality strikes down the zone as you can. There is always room for improvement."
"There are going to be games where you are going to throw seven scoreless and you can't understand how you did it because your stuff wasn't there. There could be games where you felt perfect and you get lit up. It's a part of baseball. It's something you can't control.
"The only thing you can control is your work in between starts, and try to get your body in the best shape possible to answer the bell."
With Strasburg being their best pitcher, would the Nationals consider Strasburg a serious candidate to be in the rotation in 2010?
Riggleman hasn't ruled anything out, but he said the decision will be made by several members of the organization, including Riggleman, general manager Mike Rizzo, team president Stan Kasten and pitching coach Steve McCatty.
"We haven't eliminated anything," Riggleman said. "It's going to be an organizational decision. I'm part of the organization. We'll put our heads together and come up with a decision."
The Nats have not decided if Strasburg will get another start or be sent to Minor League camp. One thing is certain, according to Rizzo, starting the arbitration clock will not be a factor in the team's decision on Strasburg.
Rizzo, Riggleman and the coaching staff were in a meeting about an hour after the game ended.
"Starting the clock has nothing to do with it," Rizzo said. "It's the development of the player -- for the long term success of him and for the franchise. When you are trying to win ballgames, the arbitration clock doesn't enter a general manager's mind."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.