Friday, March 22, 2013

Strasburg fine after brief scare

Associated Press
Steve McCatty, Lee Kuntz and Davey Johnson watch Stephen Strasburg throw.
VIERA, Fla. -- The ball came screaming off Prince Fielder's bat, struck Stephen Strasburg's left arm and then careened into shallow center field as the crowd of 7,199 at Space Coast Stadium let out a collective gasp followed by a momentary holding of the breath as the Nationals' trainer and pitching coach jogged to the mound to check on their ace.

In the end, there was nothing for everyone to be worried about. The fourth-inning comebacker caught Strasburg on the fleshy pad of his left thumb, not on a less-protected part of his hand, wrist or forearm. And after a couple minutes spent getting the feeling back in the hand and then throwing a couple of warm-up tosses, Strasburg was back to his old self, striking out a pair of Tigers to end the inning and continue his Grapefruit League start unabated.

"It's fine," the right-hander insisted afterward. "It just kind of numbed up a little bit out there. It's a little tender, but nothing crazy."

The Nationals haven't had any real serious injury scares this spring, one of many reasons why this team feels like it's well-positioned to storm out of the gates strong when the season opens in 10 days. But that brief instant this afternoon was a stark reminder that good vibes can poof into thin air with one freak injury to a star player.

"It was a scare," manager Davey Johnson said. "No doubt about it."

Johnson joined head trainer Lee Kuntz and pitching coach Steve McCatty at the mound after the incident and spent several minutes talking to Strasburg as he shook his left hand trying to get the feeling back.

"It just took a while for it to kind of sink in that it hit me," the pitcher said. "It just kind of got numb, just shook it out and it was tender after that."

The Fielder line drive was a mere footnote by the end of Strasburg's afternoon, one in which the Nationals' Opening Day starter surrendered three runs on seven hits over six innings but was pleased with the way he threw in his penultimate appearance of the spring.

"I felt like I pitched pretty well," he said. "I got weak contact and they just ... singled me to death, other than the home run early. But that's baseball."

The home run was hit by Detroit outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo, who crushed a 2-1 fastball from Strasburg over the right-field fence in the top of the second. That came at the start of Strasburg's strongest sequence of the day. He threw first-pitch strikes to 14 of 16 batters faced between the second and fifth innings, often using his knee-buckling curveball to get ahead of hitters who have come to expect fastballs from the right-hander early in the count.

"Guys like that, they're going to hack," he said. "The first fastball they see, they're going to swing at it. So I've just got to keep them off-balance and go out there and pitch."

Strasburg did a pretty good job of that, making it through four innings on only 56 pitches before laboring some during a 26-pitch fifth. He finished strong, though, retiring the side in the sixth to cap his afternoon at 89 pitches.

That's as much as we'll see Strasburg throw before April 1. He'll be ramped down some in his final spring start (Wednesday against the Braves), held to about 70 pitches according to Johnson.

But the reins will come off Strasburg once the Nationals head north, and he'll be good to top 100 pitches on Opening Day if he looks strong.

"My arm felt great today," he said. "I think my stamina is there. I felt as strong, if not looser, from the first inning to the sixth. I definitely could've gone back out there for the rest of the game, to be honest. That's a good sign. It's going in the right direction."

22 comments:

Doc said...

Watched the game on MLB.

What's with Stras's 89 mph fastballs about which even Carp and F.P. were confounded? Was the speed gun broken?

SonnyG10 said...

I didn't see Stras today. I didn't realize the game was on MASN until the seventh inning, when Wild Man Henry was on the mound. Except for the scare, sounds like his day went well. I hope the tenderness in his left thumb doesn't last.

baseballswami said...

Re-running it now on MASN.

peric said...

Stras can't do what Harper does ... he can't throw 99 throughout the spring ... not the 2nd year back from TJ. They are going to continue to closely monitor him and keep his pitch count within reason. I wouldn't worry about the speed of his fastball during the spring.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Good news on Stras!

baseballswami said...

Listening to McCatty, it sounds like he doesn't actually have his guys pitching to specific hitters. He really does have them working on things, even though we make fun of that phrase. He had SS working on going inside over and over , even if the hitter knew, just to keep repeating it. No need to throw the ultimate gas at this point , when command is the important skill. I loved hearing McCatty and he obviously knows what he is doing. The man has got some game. And he is amusing, in a gruff, curmudgeonly sort of a way.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

http://www.masnsports.com/nationals_buzz/2013/03/espinosas-groundball-approach-paying-dividends-soriano-rodriguez-notes.html

This is how you keep Anthony Rendon in the Minors until September. Espinosa thriving in not trying to do much with the ball. More singles and doubles and less K's and less HRs seems like that will pay dividends to the Nats.

NatsJack in Florida said...

OK.... watching Georgetown and Florida Gulf Coast and have to say, even though I grew up a Hoya fan, I'm kind'a liking this.

baseballswami said...

So Wang signed with the Yankees. They ought to pay us for the last two years of babysitting and therapy.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Sorry, but that was pretty sweet. Love it when a 15 beats a 2.

sjm308 said...

Nats jack - my son works at G'town but we are both huge terp fans. This was really a great game! Love the upsets. He tells,me it will be a tough day at work on Monday.

baseballswami said...

Upsets are fun! Cinderella ?

peric said...

This is how you keep Anthony Rendon in the Minors until September.

The way that guy hits and fields it ain't happening ghost. He might just be their very best overall hitter. If he proves that in the minors along with his usual flawless fielding? Fait accomplii.

peric said...

Plenty of places for G'Town fans to drown their sorrows. I still feel for the Cubby fans I know.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Peric, 2nd best hitter if we look at potential! Harper is #1. You know what potential means? Not much.

Look, I love the kid.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Georgetown, ugly. Otto Porter didn't show up.

NatsLady said...

If you have ESPN, check out the soccer game. World Cup Qualifier being played in... I've never seen anything like it.

SonnyG10 said...

I did get to watch the replay of today's game on MASN. Loved the interview with McCatty.

Rabbit34 said...

Espinosa is going to have a good year. Werth, not so. Never did like him. Never will. He swings like a rusty gate that need a lot of oil. It looks like the team is coming along with the exception of a few, naturally. Yes, we will have a good year at .500!! GO NATIONALS!!!!

m said...

I watched the game from the third inning on. I did not see a pitch greater than 91 on the radar. Most of the pitches registered around 89. During the 5th when Stras labored and got hit his pitches were around the high 80's. Some were in the mid 80's. Some of these pitches were change-ups and some were curves balls but I assume some were fastballs. If so there was very little difference in speeds between the change-up and fastball. He did not fool anyone in the 5th,. He looked very very ordinary in that inning.

Our hitters could not help because most were too busy tracking pitches.

Actually I wish our hitters would track pitches like Michael Morse does. We are going to miss this guy big time this season. Notwithstanding defense, our line-up is definitely weaker with Span as opposed to Morse. Harper would have been fine in CF and Werth was perfectly happy to look at pitches in the lead-off spot. I think Rizzo did a touch too much tinkering this year. I hope I am wrong but we shall see.

NatsJim said...

Rabbit, how'd you like Werth in the 9th inning of game 4?

Rabbit34 said...

NatsJim.....I LOVED IT!!!!!

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