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Prospects describe what it’s like to face Strasburg

Feb 23, 2014, 4:11 PM EDT

AP AP

VIERA, Fla. — There’s no rhyme or reason why certain batters face certain pitchers during live BP at Nationals camp. Matt Williams and his staff don’t try to set up particular matchups; they simply instruct a group of three outfielders or infielders to head over to an adjacent field and take their hacks against whatever pitcher happens to be on the mound.

So Brian Goodwin, Steven Souza Jr. and Michael Taylor didn’t know what they were getting themselves into when they sauntered onto Field 2 outside Space Coast Stadium on Sunday. Then they saw him. Guy by the name of Stephen Strasburg.

“I looked over to the bullpen and said: ‘That guy over there looks pretty familiar,'” Goodwin said. “I actually had no idea going into it, but once I found out, it was pretty exciting.”

What ensued over the next 12 minutes wasn’t particularly noteworthy. Strasburg threw roughly 30 to 40 pitches, working on his mechanics and location. The hitters mostly just stood in the batter’s box and watched those pitches whiz by, only occasionally taking a cut.

But the experience, while mundane to the outside observer, was memorable for those three hitters, all of them prospects participating in their first big-league camp this spring.

“It’s exciting more than anything, the opportunity to face someone of the high caliber like Stephen is,” Souza Jr. said. “I enjoy it, because to see someone with that kind of stuff on the first day, it kind of sets the tone for the rest of camp and the pitchers you’re gonna face.”

And how did the ace right-hander look to someone who had never faced him before?

“Just good stuff, man,” Goodwin said. “Life on his fastball. Kept it down. He’s just going to make it tough on hitters, and then he’s got those secondary pitches that are just unbelievably good. You can just tell the guy works hard at what he does. He takes pride in being good at what he does.”

There were precious few swings during the live BP session. Catcher Koyie Hill, also in the hitting group, did manage to shoot a soft double down the left-field line. For the most part, though, guys in the batting cage didn’t want to take too many hacks against that arsenal.

“He already throws cheese, so when I’m in that turtle, it looks like about 109,” Souza Jr. said. “I’m more just trying to see the spin and the ball and get my rhythm off his rhythm. I’m just trying to get my feet underneath me in the box and kind of get everything settled. I’m trying not to look like a fool out there.”

All three minor leaguers managed to avoid that distinction while also getting something out of the experience. Strasburg, meanwhile, was glad to be able to face live hitters for the first time since September.

“You go the whole offseason with nobody in there,” the right-hander said, “so you just want to see where you want to start your pitches and what kind of movement you’re getting and see how the swings are. … I definitely ramped it up today. You always get in another gear when you’re out there pitching in a real game. So I put something into it today, got some good work in.”

  1. DaveB - Feb 23, 2014 at 5:04 PM

    Love that picture of Strasburg’s eyes … gotta be intimidating for these prospects.

  2. therealjohnc - Feb 23, 2014 at 5:48 PM

    At FanFest Zach Walters re-told the story of his first at bat in college. Fresh out of high school, first game in, and his team was playing San Diego State. On the hill was some guy named Strasburg. Walters said that all he could think was “the guys in college are really good!”

  3. NatsLady - Feb 23, 2014 at 5:54 PM

    Just read elsewhere that Clipp is fine but Mattheus has issues… Why am I not surprised?

    http://www.masnsports.com/nationals_pastime/2014/02/mattheus-shut-down-due-to-chest-injury-clippard-returns-to-workouts.html

    • Candide - Feb 23, 2014 at 6:25 PM

      What, did he punch his locker with his chest?

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 23, 2014 at 7:19 PM

        maybe a chest bump after a good outing?

      • Sonny G 10 - Feb 23, 2014 at 11:40 PM

        You beat me to the punch, Candide! :)

  4. naterialguy - Feb 23, 2014 at 9:54 PM

    Why are people rain on matheus. Come on give the kid some slack. The guy has one of the two most memorable relief appearances in Nats history. Least we can do is pull for him.

    • Joe Seamhead - Feb 23, 2014 at 10:16 PM

      Why are people on that knucklehead? Because he was being counted on to be a major part of the bullpen last year when he imploded and it seriously cost the team.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 24, 2014 at 8:22 AM

        come on Joe, I am mad at Ryan for doing what he did but his absence did not cost as seriously as our offense.

  5. Joe Seamhead - Feb 24, 2014 at 6:33 PM

    Faraz, I think you’re wrong. Mattheus was very effective against left handed hitters. His absence, along with the shortage of lefty relievers, really crippled Davey and limited his choices severely.

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