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03/24/10 8:30 PM ET

Strasburg solid in intrasquad Minors game

Right-hander strikes out nine in 79-pitch performance

VIERA, Fla. -- Four days after the Nationals optioned him to Double-A Harrisburg, right-hander Stephen Strasburg pitched in a Minor League intrasquad game Wednesday and was solid in a 0-0 tie.

Strasburg pitched 4 1/3 innings, gave up one hit, struck out nine batters and walked three. Strasburg threw 79 pitches, 46 strikes. His fastball was clocked as high as 98 mph.

Strasburg's best inning occurred in the top of the fourth inning, when he struck out the side. The game came to an end in the top of the fifth inning when Strasburg reached his pitch limit.

That frame turned out to be his weakest, because he walked two batters. At one point, he threw six consecutive balls.

The overall pitching line wasn't the only thing that pleased Strasburg. While in the stretch, Strasburg improved his timing to the plate. At one point, he was clocked at 1.4 seconds while throwing a curveball. The Nationals want him to slow down his delivery while pitching in the stretch, so he can throw better breaking pitches and avoid stress on his shoulder.

Strasburg even and had one at-bat -- a nice sacrifice bunt in the second inning to advance a runner to second base.

"It was good to go out there to get some work in," he said. "I was able to pound the strike zone. It was a good outing."

With Strasburg starting the season with Harrisburg, the team's manager, Randy Knorr, and pitching coach Randy Tomlin were watching Strasburg closely. Knorr said he assumed that Strasburg will be his Opening Day starter against Altoona on April 8. Knorr said Strasburg's schedule during the rest of Spring Training is headed in that direction.

"It's exciting to have Stephen," Knorr said. "Stephen is going to be Stephen. He is going to go out there, do the best that he can and see what happens. I think once he gets through Spring Training, I'm sure he is going to be a little keyed up and nervous in the beginning. Once he settles down, you will see the real Stephen."

Before making his Opening Day start, there is talk of Strasburg pitching in the Nationals' final exhibition game against the Red Sox at Nationals Park. The team is expected to make a decision by the end of the week. Washington wants him to get a feel of what it's like to pitch in a big league atmosphere.

"The [front-office guys] haven't really talked to me about that. All I know is, I have a bullpen session in two days," Strasburg said. "Each new day, I have something to work on. I'm not looking too far into the future right now."

Strasburg has been getting a lot of media attention all Spring Training -- no surprise, as he was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. No matter what he does -- pitch in the Majors or the Minor Leagues -- it's a big deal.

However, he pointed out that there are a lot of players in the organization who should be recognized.

"There are a lot of guys in the system who work really hard. I'm not the only one out here," Strasburg said. "I can honestly say I'm not the only hard worker here. There are some guys who haven't received the media attention, but if they keep working hard, a lot of fans are going to get to know them. Just don't look at one player -- look at the entire team.

"Look at the Major League team that is up there now. There's a lot of new faces. Just be excited for a new season. Hopefully, my time will be soon. If not, just hang with me. I'm working hard down here."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.