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Stephen Strasburg threw his first bullpen session of 2012 yesterday.
You know who we've barely talked about all winter? Stephen Strasburg.
Seriously, how often has his name come up since his dominant start in Miami on the season's final day? Not nearly as much as you'd guess for one of the sport's most-notable young stars.
But that's actually a good thing. Maybe even a great thing. Because the last player you or the Nationals want to hear about this offseason is Strasburg. In this case, a quiet winter is the best thing that could happen to the young ace of the staff.
Strasburg, of course, tries to stay out of the spotlight. Unlike fellow No. 1 draft pick Harper, he doesn't crave attention at all. He prefers to just go about his business and avoid making headlines.
Not that anyone let Strasburg stay in the shadows over the last two years. Every step the kid took, every pitch he threw, every time his name was mentioned, a banner headline popped up somewhere.
This was especially true last winter as Strasburg rehabbed from Tommy John surgery. The Nationals offered up regular medical updates on Strasburg's progress and put him on conference calls with beat reporters every month or so, even if he didn't really have anything new to say.
And when Strasburg finally picked up a ball and played catch for the first time since his elbow surgery ... well, the whole world needed to know about it.
That hasn't been the case this winter. Strasburg went home to San Diego after his final start and has enjoyed a nice, quiet offseason out of the spotlight. No medical updates. No speculation about his timetable to return. No deciphering every little nugget of information that was revealed about him.
In fact, you probably didn't even realize it yesterday when Strasburg broke some major news on his Twitter account: "Threw first bullpen today felt great just like riding a bike!"
We'll gloss over the lack of punctuation and sentence structure -- tough as that is for this owner of a journalism degree from a prestigious university -- and just point out how significant that news actually is. Not because a pitcher throwing his first bullpen session of the year is a big deal. But because Strasburg throwing his first bullpen session of the year ISN'T a big deal anymore.
He's 100 percent healthy, now 16 months removed from his surgery. He knocked all the rust off his arm with five superb September starts, erasing any lingering concern about his ability to come all the way back from a torn elbow ligament. And now he's just going through the same offseason throwing program every other healthy pitcher in baseball undertakes.
Has there been a more encouraging development in NatsTown this winter than that? Arguably, no. Sure, the Gonzalez trade was nice, and Harper's dominance in the Arizona Fall League was great and even the Fielder rumors are fun (as long as you're not a beat writer trying to distinguish fact from fiction).
But nothing that happens to the Nationals this winter is more significant to the club's fortunes (both now and down the road) than Strasburg's return to pitching normalcy. He is the ace of the staff, the most important player on the roster.
And during an offseason that has featured plenty of rumor, speculation and bluster, the lack of news about Stephen Strasburg has been sweet music to the Nationals' ears.