Sunday, February 19, 2012

Healthy Strasburg is all smiles

US Presswire file photo
Stephen Strasburg reported for spring training today.
VIERA, Fla. -- It's been nearly 18 months since Stephen Strasburg reached back to throw that 90 mph changeup in Philadelphia and immediately felt something wrong in his elbow. There was barely a day after that in which the young right-hander didn't think about the state of his arm, didn't wonder in the back of his mind whether everything was OK, even after he had made his successful return to the Nationals in September.

And then Strasburg went home to San Diego for the winter, took some time off to relax and recuperate, and then began throwing a baseball again as part of a routine offseason program.

For the first time since that devastating night in Philadelphia, Strasburg realized he was no longer thinking about his arm.

"When I go out there and throw, it feels so much more natural now than it did coming off the surgery," he said today upon reporting for spring training. "My mind's a lot clearer. I just go out there and throw the baseball. I don't think as much about mechanics or anything. I don't feel myself holding back a little bit. I just let it go."

And then there's this nugget from the 23-year-old hurler and would-be ace of a revamped and potent Nationals rotation: "It feels like it almost never happened."

Strasburg was all smiles on his first day in camp, and for good reason. He's healthy. He's among friends. He got to experience the honor of having his No. 37 jersey retired at San Diego State Friday night.

And, for the first time in a long time, Strasburg doesn't feel like he's the unwarranted center of attention. That's because he's no longer the fresh-out-of-college phenom taking the baseball world by storm, and because he's no longer the guy trying to battle back from Tommy John surgery.

But it's also because he's no longer one of the only big names inside the Nationals clubhouse. Across the way from his locker are Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman. And surrounding him on the pitchers' side are Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson.

Yes, the Nationals are counting on big things from Strasburg. But he's not going to have to bear the weight of the entire organization. And that's a comforting thought for him.

"The one thing I really benefited from in college was, they treated me just like I was another donkey," he said with a laugh. "That's what they told me: You're just another donkey. That's how I want to be here. I don't want the special treatment. I want to go out there, and when they tell me to pitch, I'm going to give it everything I have. When they say I'm done, I'm going to be done."

Strasburg enjoyed a quiet offseason in San Diego, partaking in some weight lifting and yoga exercises (something he used to do while in college). The goal: "Being more flexible, being able to recover faster." He's been throwing for weeks and has experienced no setbacks.

No matter how healthy Strasburg feels, of course, the Nationals will still stick to their plan for all pitchers coming back from Tommy John surgery. As was the case last season with Zimmermann, Strasburg will be on an innings limit this season (most likely around 160) and he won't be permitted to surpass the 100-pitch mark by much in any given start.

That may be a tough pill for Strasburg to swallow, but he only needs to look at Zimmermann for evidence of how to handle the situation.

"I think what I learned from Jordan and what I'm going to try to incorporate is ... I don't want to go out there and say, 'Oh, I know they're going to take me out in this inning because I've thrown this many innings this year,'" he said. "I'm going to go out until they take the ball out of my hands. Whether it's going complete game, pitching on three days' rest, that's something that I'm working hard to be able to do. I'm not saying they're going to do it this year. But that's something I'm working towards."

He also learned a thing or two from his own recovery from an injury that could have ended his career before it ever had a chance to take off.

"I need to remember what I learned from that experience, because it was a tough experience in my career," he said. "I just need to remember you can't take things for granted. You've got to keep working hard every single day."

26 comments:

MicheleS said...

And Today is Strasmas on MASN at 2!

SonnyG10 said...

Thanks for the heads up, MicheleS.

dj in Fl. said...

So my wife and Nats fan was doing the online banking this morning and was suddenly asked a security question. Being taken by surprise she failed her pop quiz and we had to call to have the account unlocked. After unlocking our account the associate asked if we wanted to change our security question. We said no, leave it as the team we most like to see lose, with the answer Phillies of course. Our bank associate could not believe our answer. So I had to ask where she was located, and you know the answer. We all had a good laugh.
Opening day of spring training, with a team ready to win!!! Life is good.

Joe Seamhead said...

dj in Fl. an interesting poll on the Phillies blog today:

Which team is the biggest threat to the Phillies’ chances to win the NL East for the sixth straight year?

Atlanta Braves.
318 (48.4%)

Miami Marlins.
222 (33.8%)

Washington Nationals.
108 (16.4%)

New York Mets.
9 (1.4%)

Total votes = 657

[They're not taking us seriously in the least up there].

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

Good story, jd in FL.

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

Not surprising, Seams. The bandwagon fans would be a year behind the times, and the Braves have earned that respect on their own. I think it's pretty safe to say the Phillies themselves aren't looking past the Nats.

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

But I wonder who those 9 Mets fans were.

NatsBrat said...

@ dj

Knowing Philfies' fans, I'd change my account to another bank--she's on to you now!

natsfan1a said...

Maybe one fan who voted 9 times. :-)

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

But I wonder who those 9 Mets fans were.
February 19, 2012 2:03 PM

Joe Seamhead said...

The Strasburg and Zimmermann stories regarding TJ surgery is amazing when one thinks that just a few short years ago both pitchers careers would have been over. My hat is always off to Tommy John for taking that risk the very first time. And then when you look at the career that he had after the operation, it just is incredible.I think Tommy's stats should have gotten him into the HOF, but there's even a legit argument that the impact that came about to the game as a result of that first surgery is in itself reason for him to be in.

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

Knowing Philfies' fans, I'd change my account to another bank--she's on to you now!

They just won't let you deposit or withdraw your money until all the locals have finished their transactions.

Just sayin' said...

Joe Seamhead @ 2:19,

No offense, but if anyone gets into the Hall of Fame based on the impact of Tommy John surgery it should be Dr. Jobe, not Tommy himself.

baseballswami said...

The Phillies obviously do not remember our record against them last year or that last series of the year. Or - wait for it - that thrilling finish where Ryan Zimmerman crushed them with a walk off. Oh, wait - or the way they failed in an epic way in the post- season. Oh, and another thing - the fact that they are without ryan howard and their team is getting old. I hope they think they nats are no threat - that way we can catch them off guard. Look out, here come the nats! By the way - on the Cameron thread - I appreciate his honesty and that he is making this decision before spring training instead of opening day.

waddu eye no said...

michele s - thanks for the info on strasmas on tv. wish i'd known in time to see that second pitch to milledge. i'll remember that movement forever.

hope jayb doesn't watch. he'll be on here talking about what an awful game it was.

gyfng!

JaneB said...

From the locker room, actual baseball news....first such post of the 2012 winning season!

GYFNG,

erocks33 said...

I typically don’t like to beat a dead horse, but I was curious as to something JayB said (aw, who’s kidding who … it was the same thing JayB says). He ranted about the Nats failure to upgrade their bench and I wanted to see who might have the best bench. Now JayB may indeed be right, but after looking at some other teams rosters, I think it’s fair to say that MOST teams tend to have a pretty weak bench.

So if anyone cares to look, I’ve compiled the following list of all non-starters for the Phillies, Braves, Marlins (our immediate rivals – sorry Mets fans). This includes players on the 40-man roster and non-roster invitees to ST. I’m breaking it down to Catchers, Infielders and Outfielders (I don’t have the time to differentiate who would be considered for which specific IF or OF position). This list may be broken into two or more posts …

sm13 said...

It's Strasmas in February! Gotta love it!

erocks33 said...

Nationals –
Catcher: Jesus Flores; Jhonatan Solano; Sandy Leon; Carlos Maldanado
Infielder: Chris Marrero; Tyler Moore; Chad Tracy; Steve Lombardozzi; Anthony Rendon; Mark Teahen; Andres Blanco; Mark DeRosa; Carlos Rivero; Jarrett Hoffpauir
Outfield: Eury Perez; Corey Brown; Bryce Harper; Roger Bernadina; Rick Ankiel; Brett Carroll; Jason Michaels; Xavier Paul

Phillies –
Catcher: Brian Schneider; Sebastian Valle; Erik Kratz; Tuffy Gosewisch; Steven Lerud
Infielder: Jim Thome; Ty Wigginton; Michael Martinez; Freddy Galvis; Harold Garcia; Cesar Hernandez; Kevin Frandsen; Hector Luna; Pete Orr
Outfield: Laynce Nix; Tyson Gillies; Domonic Brown; Lou Montanez; Juan Pierre; Scott Podsednik

Braves –
Catcher: David Ross; Christian Bethancourt; J.C. Boscan; Evan Gattis; Mathew Kennelly; Jose Yepez
Infielder: Eric Hinske; Jack Wilson; Brandon Hicks; Ernesto Mejia;; Andrelton Simmons; Drew Sutton; Joe Terdoslavich; Josh Wilson
Outfielder: Jose Constanza; Matt Diaz; Todd Cunningham; Luis Durango; Stefan Gartrell; Jordan Parraz

Marlins –
Catcher: Brett Hayes; Jake Jefferies; Luke Montz; Clint Sammons; Kyle Skipworth
Infielder: Greg Dobbs; Matt Dominguez; Donnie Murphy; Nick Green; Donovan Solano; Terry Tiffee; Gil Velazquez
Outfielder: Chris Coghlan; Scott Cousins; Kevin Mattison; Bryan Petersen; Kyle Jensen; Austin Kearns; Aaron Rowand

Joe Seamhead said...

Just sayin' said...
Joe Seamhead @ 2:19,

No offense, but if anyone gets into the Hall of Fame based on the impact of Tommy John surgery it should be Dr. Jobe, not Tommy himself.

---------------------------------------------------------

No offense taken, as I agree that there should be a place in the HOF for Dr. Jobe, also, but Tommy John did consent to a surgery that Jobe gave him a 1% chance of succeeding and then rehabbed for 18 months before making a comeback. He ended up with 288 wins in his career and 164 of them came after the operation. It's only my humble opinion, [that the voting baseball writers didn't agree with], that all things and stats considered, he deserves to be in the Hall.

MicheleS said...

Waddu.. they will be replaying Strasmas All Week. It the Nationals' Classic for this week. (Mon @7PM is next Airing)

Anonymous said...

Erocks33 - Nice research. In a quick glance I'd have to say Marlins have the best bench with Dobbs being such a good PH and Coghlan being a nice option in the OF.

DEM

Cwj said...

Watched the 7th inning of Stras debut today.
For some reason whenever it's on tv, I always miss the first 6 innings.

I'd like to see some of his starts from last year.
I still kick myself for not seeing his 6IP 10SO game until after the fact.

Big things are coming from Stras this year. Can't wait.
And JZimmermann is going to be one of the best as well.

Cwj said...

Erocks33- Thanks for that info!
I like doing research on my own like that.
Good stuff.

N. Cognito said...

About the only thing I've ever agreed with JayB on is the weakness of the Nats bench, including the upcoming one. I just don't feel the urge to post that thought 3,784 times.

greg said...

yeah, i'll definitely agree with the fact that the nats' bench is by far the most disappointing flaw in the team so far this offseason. it's been a weakness on this team for a while.

i think part of that stems from not having a good farm system for a while. note that some of what makes the marlins backup OFs look so much better is the guys they developed (like coughlin). we developed bernie, maxwell... that's pretty much it (for who's made the majors). lombardozzi is really the only fringe IF we have right now from our system.

basically, for who's "made it" onto the roster recently that we've developed completely (on the field, not pitchers), you have desmond, espinosa, zimmerman in starting roles. the other guys are all prospects who we got when they were up/on the verge (like ramos) or who were late bloomers (morse) or were rule 5 (flores). or who are really AAAA (bernadina).

the jury is out on lombardozzi at this point. marerro is, to me, mostly a bust, a fringe player like bernadina.

Cwj said...

Pitching, not bench, wins games.

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