A year ago the big news out of Spring Training had to do with the Washington Nationals' '09 no.1 overall pick participating in his first bullpen sessions. After then-new Nats' catcher and future Hall of Famer Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez spent ten minutes catching the right-hander he was asked by Nationals' pitching coach Steve McCatty, (as recorded in Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell's article entitled, "Nats' Rodriguez terms Strasburg 'amazing'"), if Stephen Strasburg reminded the former Tigers' catcher of hard-throwing-righty Justin Verlander:
"'Is his stuff like [Justin] Verlander?' asked McCatty, knowing Rodríguez caught the A.L. strikeout leader in Detroit.
"'No,' said Rodríguez. 'It's like Nolan.'"
The "Nolan" was of course Nolan Ryan, the Hall-of-Fame-right-hander and current Texas team President who threw to Pudge twenty years earlier when both were players with the Rangers. The reports from Florida today about the 22-year-old Strasburg, who's five+ months into his recovery from Tommy John surgery are more pedestrian in nature with the clean-shaven once-for-a-moment-and-hopefully-future-ace simply tossing the ball from short and then longer distances before practicing fielding and bunting. Afterwards, Strasburg signed autographs and spoke to the members of the press who had gathered to watch him throw.
• Check Out Reports on Strasburg's first throwing session of the Spring:
"Strasburg played catch with head trainer Lee Kuntz, using a full throwing motion but nowhere close to full velocity. They stood about 45 feet apart and split the session in two, totaling about 15 minutes."
"The Nationals' pitchers and catchers have completed their first full workout of the spring. Several pitchers threw bullpen sessions, including Chien-Ming Wang, and the low level of intensity of his session shows why he believes he'll probably have to start..."
Nats' right-hander Jordan Zimmermann went through the same process as Strasburg last season. In a recent MLB Network Radio interview, the top pitching prospect in the Nats' system before Strasburg arrived, said that it wasn't until he got to Spring Training after he'd undergone Tommy John surgery himself, that he finally felt like he was on the way back:
Jordan Zimmermann: "When I got back down to Spring Training [in 2010], and was throwing outside and threw about 120 ft and felt great and felt that I could air it out. Once I got to that point I knew I was pretty much ready to go."
Still a long way to go for Strasburg, but he took another small step this morning. Here's a look at far Zimmermann's progressed courtesy of the Nationals on Twitter (@NationalsPR):
• The not-so-good news? The first word from this Spring on Chien-Ming Wang had the right-hander suggesting that he most likely wouldn't be ready for the beginning of the season in spite of some reports that said he was already back on a mound and throwing a few weeks back. After watching Wang throw a bullpen session this afternoon the following beat writers had this to say about the one-time Yankees' sinker-baller:
CSN and NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman): "To this untrained eye, Chien-Ming Wang sure didn't seem to be throwing with much oomph during his bullpen session.
Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP): "It seems like Chien-Ming Wang isn't all that close to full go during his bullpen session."
When (and if apparently) Nats fans can expect to see Wang on a major league mound is still a big question. It'll be interesting to see how far he progresses toward returning over the remainder of Spring Training.
More news later...