Rehabbing Nats' right-hander Stephen Strasburg gave up four hits, two walks and five earned runs in his third rehab start last week, striking out three and throwing 49 pitches, 29 strikes in 1.2 innings of work, after which he told reporters, "Sometimes it's good to have games like this because you need to get knocked around a little bit to see what you've been doing wrong and I think I learned a lot from this outing especially." The 23-year-old starter wrote it off as just "another step in the road" and joked after the quick and somewhat rough outing, that, "It can only get better from here."
The Nationals' '09 1st Round pick said he needs to work on keeping the ball down in the zone, but he said in the post game press conference which followed his second start for the Class-A Hagerstown Suns that he thought he, "...was throwing the ball down, but looking back on it, I think where I was trying to throw it wasn't necessarily where I needed to. I just need to throw the ball down a little bit more. A lot of that has to do with just not being out there, not really being in mid-season form, I guess."
"Obviously I thought I was commanding the ball pretty well," Strasburg said, "but where I was trying to throw the ball is not where I need to." There were no physical issues, however, as he explained, "It sucks that I couldn't go three innings today, but it should be a little bit easier next time so...the velocity jumped a little bit more than it did last time, breaking ball was a little more inconsistent than last time, so I kind of got into some bad habits out there, so I know what I need to fix and it's all about just going out there next bullpen, working on a few things and seeing how it goes next outing."
The next outing is tonight in Hagerstown where Strasburg's scheduled to thrown 4.0 innings or 65 pitches, whichever comes first. D.C. GM Mike Rizzo, in an appearance on MASN last week, said that going forward, Strasburg's, "... going to have a different mindset on the mound and do a little bit more of the Jordan Zimmermann kind of a plan where instead of going for 10 strikeouts per nine innings, maybe seven and a half and eight and getting more efficiency per pitch."
After giving up six hits and one unearned run in his third start last year, Zimmermann's was dominant in his fourth rehab outing in July of 2010, throwing four scoreless in which he gave up two hits and struck out four on 47 pitches, 34 of them strikes. The Nats' '07 2nd Round pick told reporters afterwards, including MLB.com's Greg Rosenstein, that his, "...arm felt great today. The control has always been there for me, but I figured after surgery, I wouldn't have the control that I used to have. I think we are pretty much there right now."
Asked by a reporter about the fact that he didn't even seem happy with his pregame pitches last time out, Strasburg didn't deny the fact, but said, "The good pitchers can overcome that. In the past there's been games that I've felt even worse in the bullpen, I've just gone out there and it just clicked and it didn't happen tonight, but a lot of it has to do with just knowing how I need to pitch up in the big leagues and just staying with that. Unfortunately it's not necessarily going to work at this level because their approaches are so much different than guys that you face in the big leagues, but the bottom line is, if I throw fastballs that are just a hair up like they were today they're going to get hit a country mile anywhere."
In three starts and 6.1 IP thus far, Strasburg's allowed nine hits, six runs, one home run and two walks while striking out twelve. He gets one step closer to returning to the big leagues tonight. Barring any setbacks or hiccups, it appears he'll make one or two more rehab starts before he's back up in the big leagues where he belongs. Unfortunately, he'll be back just as Zimmermann's reaching his innings-limit for the year, so Nats fans will have to wait til next season to finally see the 1-2 punch Washington's been planning to have at the top of their rotation for the last three years now. It should be worth the wait.