Stephen Strasburg hasn't done too many interviews on the radio in D.C. The Washington Nationals' '09 no.1 overall pick appeared on ESPN980's the Sports Fix this afternoon. The 23-year-old right-hander, who'll turn 24 in July, worked his way back from Tommy John surgery to make five starts for the Nats last September. 17 starts and 92.0 innings into his major league career, the once-in-a-generation arm is as advertised. 19 walks (1.86 BB/9), 116 K's (11.35 K/9), a 2.54 ERA, a 1.87 FIP. Strasburg ended his comeback last year with six scoreless innings against the Marlins in the season finale, walking two, striking out 10 of the 20 Marlins' batters he faced and allowing just one hit in a 3-1 win in which he earned his only W of the season.
"I mean he really had a rough finish," Davey Johnson deadpanned in an interview with ESPN980's The Sports Fix's Thom Loverro and Kevin Sheehan when the 69-year-old skipper appeared on the same show this winter. Asked about having to use the top-of-the-rotation arm within the limits which will be place upon Strasburg in his first full year back from surgery, Johnson said that the pitcher he saw at the end of the season will be limited only in the total number of innings and pitches he's allowed to throw this year...
"I know that what I saw at the end of the year, I saw a very healthy Stephen Strasburg," Johnson told reporters, "He reminded me of a guy that didn't look like he'd ever been injured. There was no change in the delivery. Everything was free and fluid. The ball was leaping out of his hand, and he's going to be just a regular pitcher until we've got to shut him down. He's over the special treatment. Now I would handle him just like any other pitcher on my staff and when we feel like the arm has had enough we'll shut him down, just like with [Jordan Zimmermann]."
Strasburg, this afternoon on ESPN980, said that the five starts he made at the end of the 2011 season that showed his manager he was back were important for him in preparing for the upcoming season. "I think the big thing is, number one I was able to get back within a year and number two, I was successful, "Strasburg said, "So it just really confirmed the expectations I had for myself last year." Getting back on the mound and getting a foundation for this season physically and mentally, the right-hander explained, "It's obviously huge. To know that your last start was the last game of the season and not necessarily August of two years ago."
The right-hander dismissed the idea of starting the season late to make himself available down the stretch should the Nationals actually be in the race for a postseason berth. "I know for one thing, as a competitor you work all offseason to prepare for the season and I don't think there should be any separate treatment for myself. I want to be like one of the other guys. Obviously, I think everyone in the Nationals' organization would agree on this, we're not necessarily playing for one year specifically, we're playing to hopefully build a dynasty. And obviously we have a lot of talent and ability this year, I've just got to get some experience, so, I think everything is going in the right direction. And whether it's them shutting me down or not, it's all in their hands, but as of right now, I wouldn't want it any other way, I just think it's huge for all the guys involved to be there from day one working together."
Davey Johnson also hinted during his interview with ESPN980's hosts earlier this winter that barring an especially cold April afternoon in Chicago's Wrigley Field, the 6'4'', 220lb Strasburg will be on the hill on Opening Day when the Nationals take on the Cubs. The right-hander told Mr.'s Loverro and Sheehan it wasn't a big concern for him. "I've said this a couple times," Strasburg said, "It really doesn't matter. Obviously it would be a huge honor, but I'm more focused on how we finish the season and not necessarily how we start it." The biggest concern Strasburg seems to have is just making sure that he's treated the same as every other pitcher in spite of the hype that's accompanied the start of his career. "I don't necessarily believe in the hype so I guess it's really nothing that I'm battling with. I consider myself to be just one of the five starters who goes out there every fifth day and does everything in their power to help the team win the ballgame, and that's the bottom line," because Stephen Strasburg said so.
• Listen to Stephen Strasburg on ESPN980 HERE.