VIERA, FL - FEBRUARY 28: Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals poses during photo day at Space Coast Stadium on February 28, 2012 in Viera, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
A year ago in Viera, Florida, Washington Nationals' right-hander Stephen Strasburg was taking a step up in his throwing program, increasing the number of pitches he threw and dialing up the, "intensity of the throws," as MLB.com's Bill Ladson wrote at the time in an article entitled, "Working way back, Strasburg 'feels good.'" The then-22-year-old was playing catch as part of the rehab program he was on following Tommy John surgery in late 2010. He was throwing at a distance of around 45ft at the time. He was still more than two months away from throwing off a mound for real for the first time.
In the third week of May, the Nats' '09 no.1 overall pick did finally toe the rubber (do people still say that?) and throw his first bona fide bullpen session after the surgery. Two months later on August 7th he made his first rehab start for the Hagerstown Suns. A month after that, on September 6, 2011, Stephen Strasburg returned to the mound in the nation's capital, throwing 5.0 scoreless and striking out four in a 7-3 loss to the LA Dodgers in which he received no decision. 24.0 innings later Strasburg's second major league season ended. The right-hander had walked two batters (0.75 BB/9), K'd 24 (9.00 K/9) and posted a 1.50 ERA and a 1.28 FIP in starts thirteen-through-seventeen of his career. 92.0 innings in, the 6'4'', 220lb San Diego State University-educated starter has been dominant, striking out 116 (11.35 K/9) and walking 19 (1.86 BB/9) with a 2.54 ERA and a 1.87 FIP so far in the majors...
Getting innings in at the end of the 2011 season in simulated games, minor league starts and in his major league outings, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo told MLB Network hosts Kevin Kennedy and Jim Duquette after Strasburg's first start last September, was about getting, "... a foundation for 50.0 innings in that will allow him to pitch a little deeper into 2012 and be effective for us that way." Strasburg told ESPN980's Thom Loverro and Kevin Sheehan in an interview this week that it was also important mentally. "It's obviously huge," the now-23-year-old right-hander said, "To know that your last start was the last game of the season and not necessarily August of two years ago."
This year Strasburg's at Spring Training throwing without limitations. "The biggest difference is going out there and just going through the normal drills," Strasburg told ESPN's Tim Kurkjian when the Baseball Tonight crew visited Viera, Florida's Space Coast Stadium. "I'm able to throw to first base, throw to second base, do all those kinds of things and with the throwing program there's really no limitations, they're not really worried about how far I go. I'm just like another one of the guys," Strasburg said. On Sunday afternoon he'll make his first Spring Training start since 2010.
In his first taste of Grapefruit League action after he was drafted in June of 2009, Strasburg, with a fastball that sat around 96-98 that day, threw two scoreless on 27 pitches against the Detroit Tigers on March 9, 2010, and he was (1-0) in three starts and 9.0 IP over which he gave up eight hits and two runs, both on HR's while walking just one batter and striking out 12 before he was sent to minor league camp and eventually Double-A Harrisburg where he started his first professional season. The talk of this year's camp is all about where 2010 no.1 overall pick Bryce Harper will start the year. Strasburg's just quietly going about the business of starting his third professional season.
"'He’s a big, strong horse of a kid with terrific stuff who can still pound the strike zone,'" Nats' GM Mike Rizzo told AP writer Paul Newberry as quoted in an article at FloridaToday.com today entitled, "Nationals' Strasburg hopes to live up to the hype", and, "'He has remarkable command with remarkable stuff,'" the general manager added. And this year he's part of a pitching staff that includes Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson, Chien-Ming Wang, John Lannan and Ross Detwiler. Strasburg will never be just another one of the guys, his talent won't allow it, but the hype won't be the same as it was when he exploded on the scene in 2010 and stirred up the baseball world. This year he's the youngest member of an experienced staff with talent unlike anything Washington's previously assembled. He makes his first start of the 2012 season against the Houston Astros today at 1:05 pm EST.