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Stephen Strasburg was brilliant in his 2011 debut.
So the Nationals were careful not to place any expectations on Stephen Strasburg's 2011 debut Tuesday night. Given the fact he hadn't been on a big-league mound in 381 days, and given the uncertainty that surrounded this start against the Dodgers because of a forecast that called for a 100 percent chance of rain, the Nationals were pleased simply to hand him the ball again.
And then Strasburg unleashed his first big-league pitch in 12 1/2 months -- a 96-mph fastball to Dee Gordon -- and everyone suddenly remembered what makes this right-hander different from everyone else.
"That is the norm for Tommy John," pitching coach Steve McCatty said of the struggles other hurlers usually experience in their return outings. "But ask yourself: Is this guy normal?"
No, he really isn't, a fact Strasburg confirmed over and over again during his five innings of brilliance Tuesday night.