Strasburg feels strong after solid start vs. Mets
Righty says arm in great shape after throwing 85 pitches Tuesday
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- After having his worst outing of the spring last week against the Braves, Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg came back Tuesday and was outstanding in a 2-0 loss to the Mets.
Against the Braves, Strasburg acknowledged that he was stubborn. For example, Strasburg said he made a mistake trying to strike out Dan Uggla on a 1-2 fastball. Uggla, a dead fastball hitter, ended up hitting a two-run homer. Strasburg said he should have focused more on location instead of trying to blow Uggla away with his fastball. Strasburg called it "immaturity" on his part.
Tuesday was a different story against the Mets. Strasburg pitched five innings, allowed a run on two hits, struck out three batters and walked one. He threw 85 pitches, 54 strikes. Strasburg felt he could have pitched another inning and wished the 85 pitches occurred after seven innings. It didn't help, for example, that Daniel Murphy had an 11-pitch at-bat in the third inning. Murphy ended up grounding out to end the inning.
"They are just going to grind you out, and you are going to have games where, instead of fouling them off, you get quick outs," Strasburg said. "The arm felt great. That's a plus. I'll go out and build off of this the next time."
Strasburg's only blemish occurred in the fourth inning, when he allowed a wind-blown solo homer to Lucas Duda. The Nationals thought Duda had struck out looking on the previous pitch, but home-plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt called it a ball.
"I made the pitch, and that's baseball," Strasburg said. "Bottom line is, it happens. You just have to learn from it."
Strasburg said he located the ball better Tuesday than in his previous outing, but there is still a lot of work to do before the regular season starts.
"It was just another outing. Still just trying to go out there and get the pitch count up. I want to be where I want to be to start the season," Strasburg said. "I felt like I made more quality pitches down in the zone."
According to manager Davey Johnson, Strasburg is so intense he treats Spring Training as if he is in the first game of the World Series. He is his worst critic, according to Johnson.
"You can't talk to him during a game. It's like talking to that brick wall over there," Johnson said. "But he is really a competitor. I saw what I wanted to see [tonight]. He threw a lot of pitches. He's right where he needs to be."
Johnson noticed this time that Strasburg didn't overthrow the baseball.
"He had much better command, he didn't overthrow, he threw some quality pitches and had better feel," Johnson said. "Later on in the game, he came with a breaking ball. He stayed within himself, he pitched. That's what I wanted to see."
In his next start, Johnson plans to have Strasburg throw 80 pitches.
"I'll back him off a little bit," the skipper said.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.