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Washington Nationals' starters Stephen Strasburg and Ross Detwiler both faced live hitters for the first time this Spring this afternoon in Viera, Florida's Space Coast Stadium. Nats' GM Mike Rizzo was on the radio this afternoon as well, talking about the importance of Spring Training excercises like this...
The Washington Nationals had their first live BP sessions today, with pitchers throwing to hitters, some of whom swung away and some of whom just stood there and took pitches or "tracked" pitches as they like to say. Asked what he got out of facing live hitters, the Nats' 24-year-old right-hander, Stephen Strasburg told reporters it was all about, "Just trying to throw a couple inside. Trying to hit your spots and just getting a good rhythm out there and something that you can build off on and take it to the next outing or bullpen."
The '09 no.1 overall pick unleashed a few benders this afternoon as well. "Felt good," Strasburg said, "I hung a couple of the first ones then they really started to come back and started to feel a lot sharper as I went on." In an interview with ESPN980's Thom Loverro and Kevin Sheehan this afternoon, Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo explained what significance the first live batting practice holds.
"Well first of all," Rizzo said, "They're going to pitch for a little bit longer in the live BP than they did in their bullpens. I think we were throwing ten minutes, as you heard by the horns, it was exactly ten minutes on the dot from their first pitch to their last pitch. So it stretched their arms out a little bit. The intensity is raised, obviously, a little bit more than a singular bullpen session would be. And guys are looking for... it's a touch and feel situation where they're trying to hit some spots, spin a breaking ball maybe for the first time with a hitter in the batter's box and just kind of get the feel and the nuances of what it feels like in your delivery and the ball coming out of your hand."
Asked if he minded hitters swinging away in these sessions or preferred hitters just tracking pitches, the Nats' starter said it didn't matter to him either way. "It doesn't really bother me too much," Strasburg said, "Obviously they're your teammates too so you want them to feel good about it, so obviously it's a little different out there. In games they don't really know what's coming, but same thing for them, they want to get in there and get a chance to time out some fastballs and stuff and get their timing down." The "in games they don't know what's coming" part doesn't sound the least bit competitive...
Also throwing live BP today was Nationals' left-hander Ross Detwiler, who impressed his catcher, Kurt Suzuki. "He was throwing good sinkers today," Suzuki told reporters, "Nice and easy and the one pitch that was really good today was his curveball. He was throwing breaking balls today. He throws a lot of sinkers, but he's been working some good curveballs, some good changeups."
The Nats' catcher also told reporters that it wasn't about Detwiler developing any longer, but more about him becoming confident about just how good he really can be. "I don't think it's about developing," Suzuki said, " I think it's more about trust. He's got it. It's there. It's just he's just got to be confident when throwing it, and I think towards the end of the year he's got more success with it, which allows him to be more confident and starts to get better and better. And I mean, now? I mean, it's good. [The curve is] a good pitch for him to have, especially when everybody knows he's going to throw a lot of sinkers, but if he can mix in some off speed pitches, then I think it will put him over the top."
• For some reports from people who where there to watch live BP, uh, live, or in person, check out NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman's report and the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore's below:
Scenes from the Nats' first live BP, including Tyler Moore on Strasburg's sinker: "It looked like a lefty’s slider." wapo.st/YBuFRA— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) February 20, 2013