Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Stephen Strasburg faced live hitters today for the first time this spring.
Especially Stephen Strasburg.
It's always a treat to watch the big guy take the mound with a real, live batter in the box. Even though these sessions rarely live up the hype because the hitters often just track pitches as they go by and take only a few cursory swing, you can get a pretty good sense of Strasburg's stuff and command when you watch him up close like this.
And how did he look today? Let's ask one of the Nationals who had the opportunity to dig in against him.
"The stuff's nasty, definitely what you want it to be in one of your starters," Tyler Moore said, adding: "Just impressive to see. I'm glad he's on my team."
Strasburg faced four teammates in his live BP session: Moore, Chad Tracy, Roger Bernadina and Chris Snyder. He threw 36 total pitches, 15 of which were greeted with swings. Seven of those swings produced balls that left the batting cage. Five of those landed in fair territory.
Props to Moore, though, for recording the hardest-hit ball of the session: A sharp base hit up the middle.
"Yeah, but he's telling me what's coming," the second-year slugger pointed out.
True enough. Pitchers announce what they're going to throw in advance, so nobody's fooled by a curveball when they expected a fastball, or a changeup when they expected a slider.
Even when he knew what was coming, Moore emerged impressed with Strasburg's overall arsenal, particularly his mid-90s sinker.
"It looked like a lefty's slider, almost," Moore said. "I mean, it was nasty. It was hard and late."
Strasburg, true to form, downplayed the significance of his first mound appearance of the year against live hitters.
"It felt good to be back out there," he said. "Everything's starting to come back."
Among the other pitchers who impressed this morning:
-- Drew Storen, who fired off some tough sliders to Bryce Harper, Adam LaRoche, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman (though the last two only tracked pitches, never taking the bat off their shoulder).
-- Ross Detwiler, who recorded one of the morning's few swing-and-misses, getting Moore to flail away at a sinker down and away.
-- Gio Gonzalez, who was his usual boisterous self. Despite strong encouragement from Steve McCatty to wrap up his session after hitting his pre-determined pitch count, Gonzalez insisted on throwing two more pitches (one curveball, one fastball). "I told Cat: 'If the arm's going the arm's going,'" the lefty explained.