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Strasburg continues Nats rotation mastery

Mar 20, 2014, 5:45 PM EST

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VIERA, Fla. — The Stephen Strasburg who took the mound Thursday afternoon and shut out the Tigers for five innings certainly looked a guy ready to take the mound on Opening Day for the Nationals. In scattering three hits and a walk, Strasburg cruised through his fourth start of the spring and lowered his Grapefruit League ERA to a miniscule 0.64.

At this point, there’s really nothing more Strasburg needs to accomplish this spring, aside from building up his stamina a bit more after throwing 66 pitches against Detroit.

“I think he’s right on track,” manager Matt Williams said.

Williams could say the same thing about all three of his top starters, who have methodically dominated their way through the Grapefruit League and have positioned themselves to enter the season worthy of all the accolades that have already been bestowed upon them.

Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann have now made a combined 11 starts this spring, during which time they have posted a 1.26 ERA an 0.813 WHIP. Yes, it’s spring training and the results don’t count. But given the choice between great results or terrible results, which one would you prefer?

Besides, Williams is impressed with those three for reasons that extend far beyond their ERA.

“Their pitching is one thing,” the manager said. “But I’m encouraged that both guys that were asked to sacrifice bunt got the bunt down. That’s encouraging. Because that’s a big part of our team. Their pitching speaks for itself. They’ve competed, they’ve thrown strikes. They’ve done a real good job of holding baserunners, which was important to us and continues to be important to us. So all in all, really good.”

Strasburg’s renewed emphasis on halting the running game was on full display Thursday when he did his part to keep the Tigers’ Nick Castellanos close to first base in the top of the third, then was quick to the plate with a pitch on which Castellanos took off. That gave catcher Wilson Ramos ample time to throw Castellanos out.

“It’s not gonna happen like that every time,” Strasburg said. “But the biggest thing is not letting them get to second, or making it harder for them to get there. It’s amazing how it affects the game and how it affects the next pitch and the results.”

These are the little things Strasburg has been trying to perfect all spring, and as the regular season draws near, it’s not hard to see what a difference they could make for the right-hander and his team.

Williams officially named Strasburg his Opening Day starter Wednesday night, an announcement that surely didn’t take anyone by surprise but was notable nonetheless considering the 19-win season Zimmermann just produced.

For his part, Strasburg on Thursday downplayed the significance of his Opening Day assignment.

“I’ve said this before: I hope my career isn’t just reflected on how many Opening Day starts I have,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of guys in this rotation that deserve it, and I’m just the first one out. I think every game is going to be just as important. The biggest goal as a team is that we’re playing in the playoffs. I definitely would want to focus on making starts in the playoffs more so than an Opening Day start.”

If the entire Nationals rotation can translate the success they’ve enjoyed this spring into the season, Strasburg might very well get that opportunity.

  1. Sonny G 10 - Mar 20, 2014 at 5:53 PM

    Strasburg was awesome, but our offense came alive also against a pretty good pitcher. Shadows must have been the problem yesterday. :)

  2. ehay2k - Mar 20, 2014 at 6:31 PM

    Only the Shadows know…

  3. veejh - Mar 20, 2014 at 6:53 PM

    Some pretty impressive ST stats, no doubt. A carry over to the regular season would be nice. I’m really not trying to see this team play catch up all season. Come on bats!

  4. nats128 - Mar 20, 2014 at 7:44 PM

    MLB Network with highlights. They had that cool doubleplay

    • Eric - Mar 20, 2014 at 8:07 PM

      Is there a link, or just on the TV highlights? Sounded pretty sweet on the radio.

      • nats128 - Mar 20, 2014 at 8:10 PM

        It was on the game highlights. They just showed it on Intentional Talk!

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Mar 21, 2014 at 11:13 AM

        It was quirky. It’s on the Nats’ website now, but within the video of Strasburg talking, at about :30. Great reflexes by Danny.

  5. sunshinebobby - Mar 20, 2014 at 7:50 PM

    It’s why they call him Jesus. 21-7 has a nice ring to it.

    • nats128 - Mar 20, 2014 at 8:11 PM

      +1

    • Sonny G 10 - Mar 20, 2014 at 9:23 PM

      That was a good article. I feel a lot better about Detwiler going to the pen now. If he becomes a lights-out reliever, what a boost it will be for the team.

    • nats128 - Mar 20, 2014 at 9:35 PM

      I read the article earlier and what Boz wrote in 2 dozen paragraphs I read here several years ago in a couple of paragraphs. Davey was right about Detwiler and Rizzo was wrong. Matty got it right. The Boz article I liked is talking about how sports teams have a limited window to be at the Top and his comparison to the Capitals was a good comparison.

      You never want to look back a few years from now and have regrets. 2012 we have regrets. 2013 we have regrets. 2014 has promise that has to be fulfilled.

    • Hiram Hover - Mar 20, 2014 at 9:55 PM

      I think Boz puts the best spin on the situation – that the BP was a weakness last year, that Det was stronger than any of the other candidates, esp, among lefties, and will certainly make it stronger.

      But–the fact of the matter is that almost every starting pitcher’s stuff would play better in the BP, and better than the average BP pitcher’s stuff. They only get moved to the BP when their stuff isn’t good enough to keep them in the rotation.

      One other thing – you don’t have to be a strike-out pitcher to thrive in the BP, but it can definitely help. And Det is not a high K guy – 5.4K/9 career, 6.4K/9 as a reliever, and about a 1.8 K/BB ratio. In other words, not a real stopper type, which is how the Boz article tries to spin it.

      • David Proctor - Mar 20, 2014 at 10:02 PM

        I’m not sure we can draw any conclusions (good or bad) from Detwiler’s past relief outings. 31 innings is just not a sufficient sample.

      • Hiram Hover - Mar 20, 2014 at 10:15 PM

        I agree – I didn’t put that in there because I thought it was dispositive – only because in my experience, when you leave something like that out, someone inevitably comes along and asks for it.

        Det will be lucky if he can become a LH Craig Stammen. I had forgotten how much Stammen started just a few years ago – 38 starts in 2009-10. And he wasn’t that good. But since he’s been a reliever (and he was converted around the same age), he’s been really strong. He went from 5-6K per 9 to about 9K/9, and a K/BB ratio of close to 3/1.

        I’m not sure Det has the stuff to pull that off, but for the Nats sake, I hope so.

      • David Proctor - Mar 20, 2014 at 10:20 PM

        Stammen was saying on the broadcast last week that he developed the slider after moving to relief. Wouldn’t it be ironic if Det developed some offspeed pitches after moving to the bullpen when the lack of offspeed pitches is what did him in?

      • Hiram Hover - Mar 20, 2014 at 10:28 PM

        Here’s hoping! Something for them to talk about during those early innings out there in the BP every night.

    • Doc - Mar 20, 2014 at 10:25 PM

      Thanks, DP.

      Great article.

  6. nats128 - Mar 20, 2014 at 8:40 PM

    Here’s the Matty quote via WaPo on Walters. Pay particular attention to the last part on defense. We have heard this from some of the people here who understand the game. Some think the guy is hitting he gets a place. They dont get it. This is the National League. Dont use the Hairston excuse becuz I cant figure out why hes on this team.

    ** Williams on what he had to say to Zach Walters this morning after he got cut: “That he’s very close. Very close. I encouraged him make sure, on an everyday basis, that he leaves his at-bats in the dugout when he goes to the field. That’s important for a young player. It’s hard to do, because we’re all human. He’s on the verge of being a very good, everyday big leaguer. I was encouraged by his spring. I was encouraged by the way he competed. We saw all these things about Zach – about his power, and his running ability, and all that. What will keep him in the big leagues is his ability to play defense. That was a point of emphasis this morning. He needs to concentrate on that.”

    • nats128 - Mar 20, 2014 at 8:46 PM

      Heres 2 people that get it on Walters and immediately posted what the problem is and has been for that matter.

      natinalsgo – Mar 20, 2014 at 11:39 AM
      His fielding and his fielding and his fielding have been his liability the Nats can’t take the chance on right now. The Ks you can take a chance on.

      laddieblahblah – Mar 20, 2014 at 11:41 AM
      Walters has got a long way to go, but if the Nats coaching staff can turn Desi from a defensive liability to an above-average defender, they may be able to do the same with Walters.

      natinalsgo – Mar 20, 2014 at 3:14 PM
      It’s about the solid defense to go along with good offense . Espinosa doesn’t have Walters bat. If Walters improves his D he will get a spot on the team. If not, he’s going to need a Leftfielders glove.

      and someone who still thinks the Nats are a last place team. If Ian Desmond was trying to make it now he wouldn’t get a chance until he figured it out in AAA.

      habs3 – Mar 20, 2014 at 3:16 PM
      Walters’ minor league stats were no worse than Desmond’s or Espinosa’s. It is amazing how players get labeled. Desmond was allowed to grow why not Walters . The same can be said for Souza, Moore , Skole and Kobernus, If find it annoying when people label players based on an insignificant sampling size.

      • Sonny G 10 - Mar 20, 2014 at 8:59 PM

        +1

      • natinalsgo - Mar 20, 2014 at 9:10 PM

        +2 and thanks for quoting me. You hope people can evaluate the situation and not rely on the Manager or FO to state what I thought was obvious.

        This was a no-brainer but by Habs3 comment may not be that obvious to everyone.

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Mar 20, 2014 at 9:37 PM

      I’ve been interested in seeing how Matty approaches this particular part of his job. He was up and down two or three times with the Giants before he learned about curveballs low and away. Roger Craig used to use him as an example of someone with all the tools, who just doesn’t quite get it yet–“you just gotta relax and concentrate,” as Annie used to say.

      • nats128 - Mar 20, 2014 at 9:47 PM

        Someone had to tell Walters the whole truth and Matty did it. Its easy to dance around the issue and 40+ errors wont cut it. He did that in a short Minor League season. Its great hes hitting HRs, better would be defense and hitting HRs and getting on base.

        We are back to old school baseball. Pitching and defense and timely hitting with manufacturing runs.

  7. Sec 3 My Sofa - Mar 20, 2014 at 9:39 PM

    Whoops. That was supposed to be in reply to nats128 above, about his conversation with Walters when he told the kid they were sending him back to the minors.

    • Eric - Mar 20, 2014 at 9:48 PM

      If you mean the one that starts “I’ve been interested…” it looks like it is aligned as a first level response to that post, nats128 just got a reply in to his/her own post first.

      But let me take this opportunity to mention that the WordPress commenting format is confusing, the layout unclear, and the implementation buggy. Causes me to make all kinds of mistakes.

      • Section 222 - Mar 20, 2014 at 10:07 PM

        Welcome to our world Eric. Problem No. 1 is no editing function. Problem No. 2 is there’s no permalink for comments and searching for them is much more difficult than in blogspot. Problem No. 3 is the embedding. It’s fine if want to have a conversation, but it leads to very confusing threads for people who check in and out during the day.

        The first two problems we can’t fix. The second we can, if we’re willing not to embed replies unless we are replying right after the original comment was posted.

        But we have this blog and this community, and that’s overall still a big plus in my book.

      • Eric - Mar 20, 2014 at 10:39 PM

        The last point is the salient point. I b*tch because I love ;)

      • Doc - Mar 20, 2014 at 10:56 PM

        Big plus indeed, Sectiont 222.

      • Joe Seamhead - Mar 21, 2014 at 6:55 AM

        Eric, I love this blog ,but hate the WordPress format. I really dislike no no edit ability. I find the whole thing clumsy. It’s even worse on my iPad. I’m frequently hitting the “report comment” box with my thumb when I’m scanning down a page.

    • nats128 - Mar 21, 2014 at 7:35 AM

      Good, Im not the only one accidently pushing that “repot comment” button

  8. Dan - Mar 21, 2014 at 8:13 AM

    Things looking GREAT for the Nationals this year. GO NATS!

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