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Strasburg wraps up spring, looks ahead to opener

Mar 25, 2014, 4:57 PM EST

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VIERA, Fla. — Stephen Strasburg took the mound today with two, somewhat dueling objectives. On one hand, the Nationals ace wanted to finish his spring on a high note and position himself as best he could for Opening Day. On the other hand, he didn’t want to tip his hand too much to the same Mets lineup he’ll be facing six days from now at Citi Field, with a whole lot more on the line.

“I think it affected the way I attacked them,” the right-hander said. “But you get out there in the heat of the moment and you definitely want to go out there compete, so I wasn’t just giving in to anybody.”

Nor did he appear to. Strasburg was mostly effective over 5 2/3 innings, his only significant hiccups coming during a 3-run top of the third. Otherwise, he was in control, striking out seven, tossing a couple of shutdown innings after his teammates gave him the lead and running his pitch count up to a spring-high 84, setting himself up nicely to approach triple digits on Opening Day.

Thus concluded Strasburg’s fifth big-league camp in Viera, this one unique in that he was focused mostly on some finer points of pitching. He made significant strides in his ability to hold runners on base and get the ball to the plate with less wasted time. And he added a slider to his already-deep repertoire, becoming comfortable enough to acknowledge he’s prepared to use it in any game situation.

“Yeah, I’m going to throw it. Why not?” he said. “At the same time, I feel like I’ve got some pitches that I’ve had success with for a few years now. And I had those pitches. Those were the ones that got me to the big leagues. So I’m not going to dump any other one. It’s just another pitch they’re going to have to get ready for.”

Spring training numbers should always be taken with a grain of salt, but Strasburg’s performance was superb. He made five Grapefruit League starts and finished 4-0 with a 1.83 ERA, allowing 13 hits and six walks over 19 2/3 innings while striking out 17.

Strasburg will now get an extra day of rest before making his third consecutive Opening Day start against the Mets’ Dillon Gee. He’ll enter that game confident he accomplished everything he wanted when he arrived in Viera six weeks ago.

“Got some good work in,” he said. “Wanted to come into spring and work on another pitch and working on my timing out of the stretch and controlling the run game. I felt like I got a lot more comfortable with that as the spring went on.”

  1. nats128 - Mar 25, 2014 at 5:13 PM

    I’m watching this Giants game and Morse doing it all. Michael Morse with a defensive gem in LF with a diving slide for a ball. I guess he wants to be the starting LF for the Giants.

  2. positivelyhalfst - Mar 25, 2014 at 5:28 PM

    Wow! Tyler Moore has been optioned to Syracuse. I think that this is a smart move. I guess it means that Jamie Carroll makes the club, which is a fun side effect.

    • David Proctor - Mar 25, 2014 at 5:30 PM

      Nope. Carroll cut. Williams says it’s down to Kobernus or Leon (if Leon is available, they can use Ramos or Lobaton to PH).

      Aaron Barrett made the team.

  3. positivelyhalfst - Mar 25, 2014 at 5:30 PM

    Whoops! No, Jamey has been released, and Aaron Barrett makes the team. Interesting choices. I wish they could have traded Chris Young instead of simply releasing him.

  4. momhw - Mar 25, 2014 at 5:31 PM

    You missed the last part of Mark’s tweet – Jamie Carroll released.

  5. janebeard - Mar 25, 2014 at 5:33 PM

    WOW! Jamey AND Tyler gone. I clearly didn’t pay enough attention to Barrett then. The website has Taylor Jordan making a start on April 4. Did they announce he’s the fifth starter and I missed it?

    I feel bad for Jamey Carroll. What a great guy. And glad to see Morse raking it for the Giants.

    • natsfan1a - Mar 25, 2014 at 6:14 PM

      Me, too, although not as bad as the first time, when they sold him down the river (grrrr). Thanks for the memories, Jamey. We’ll always have RFK. :-)

      “I feel bad for Jamey Carroll. What a great guy.”

  6. Hiram Hover - Mar 25, 2014 at 5:33 PM

    Wow – I look forward to a fuller explanation than in the tweets.

    I’m not surprised that Carroll was released, but I expected Moore to make it if Carroll didn’t.

  7. Hiram Hover - Mar 25, 2014 at 5:37 PM

    I like the choice to keep Barrett–makes it sound more likely to me that Roark stays and Jordan goes down.

    Or that’s what I would have thought, before some of these tweets make me wonder how well I understand management’s thinking here.

  8. NatsLady - Mar 25, 2014 at 5:38 PM

    Nope, Jamey Carroll also released. Barrett told that he made the team. He needs to give Drew Storen a big hug.

  9. Faraz Shaikh - Mar 25, 2014 at 5:44 PM

    WOW interesting moves!
    I don’t see any 1B backup like Moore on bench so Ryan will back up ALR a lot more than some of us anticipated I guess.
    barrett move I like. wish moore could stick around. carroll should retire and become a coach. I would go with leon as 3rd catcher for final bench spot.

    • Hiram Hover - Mar 25, 2014 at 5:47 PM

      Does keeping Leon around speak of a lack of confidence in Lobaton?

      • Faraz Shaikh - Mar 25, 2014 at 5:51 PM

        Not to me! It is so we can use Lobaton and Ramos as PH as many times as we want. Ramos with his power and Lobaton with his switch-hitting are nice players to have on your bench.

      • David Proctor - Mar 25, 2014 at 5:53 PM

        Keeping Leon around allows Ramos and Lobaton to PH, where otherwise they couldn’t because managers are terrified of using their backup C as a pinch hitter in case of injury. That’s why the Braves are keeping 3 catchers.

      • David Proctor - Mar 25, 2014 at 5:55 PM

        Whoops, Faraz beat me to it.

      • Hiram Hover - Mar 25, 2014 at 5:57 PM

        I understood Mark’s explanation, but the cost seems too high to me–Ramos gets an extra AB on some days he’d otherwise have off, but on every other day (which is most days), that bench guy is useless to you, both offensively and defensively.

  10. Joe Seamhead - Mar 25, 2014 at 6:11 PM

    I am very happy for Aaron Barrett.The kid blindsided just about everybody this spring by how well he performed and by making the club. My thoughts on the others?
    Carroll? Thanks for the memories, you were a lot of fun to watch in the beginning. you had a heck of a ride for a over-achieving hustler.
    Cedeno? Couldn’t afford the luxury for a guy that was meat for right handers.
    Moore? You might be back, but a MLB curve is a hard thing to learn to hit. The sands are flowing through the hour glass quicker now.
    Mattheus? Get better, you knucklehead.We’ll need you sooner, or later.
    Young? Three years ago you would have made the roster. This club just has too many young studs for you to compete now. You’ll land with somebody.
    Jordan over Roark? I guess the coin had a heads and a tails. Looks like heads came up and Tanner had tails.

    The survivors, so far?
    Kobernus or Leon? Tough call, but seeing as Lobaton can switch hit and Ramos is raking, a 3rd catcher so as one of the others can pinch hit has some merit. I don’t see Kobernus being anything more than a pinch runner, which is a nice luxury for a manager that wants to be aggressive with keeping the runners moving. Where’s he going to get time in the field?





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