Nationals' Starter Stephen Strasburg Working On Becoming Complete Pitcher

USA TODAY Sports

New Washington Nationals' manager Matt Williams likes what he's seen from Stephen Strasburg even in the first few bullpen sessions this spring. The Nats' 25-year-old starter is determined to hold runners and go deeper into his starts than he has in the past.

Stephen Strasburg's fourth major league season with the Washington Nationals ended with the 25-year-old right-hander at +3.2 fWAR, with an (8-9) record, a 3.00 ERA, 3.21 FIP, 56 walks (2.75 BB/9) and 191 Ks (9.39 K/9) in 30 starts and 180 IP.

Following Strasburg's final start of the 2013 campaign on September 27th in Arizona, now-former Nats' skipper Davey Johnson talked about the year the '09 no.1 overall pick put together.

"I saw today Stephen Strasburg in his first bullpen session working on a slide step and varying his looks to home plate." - Matt Williams on attention to detail this spring

"Certainly was consistent all year long," Johnson said. "He's still, there's a few things that he could do better. He knows what they are. He's a little too regular still at times, but he's made improvements. He's getting to be the complete pitcher. He's awfully good as it is, but there's still more room in there for improvement."

Strasburg spent the last start of the season concentrating on holding runners. "I just wanted to make sure that they weren't getting free bases," he told reporters. "And I was able to do that. And I know if I work on that, the little things, it's going to really save me a lot of runs."

The Nationals' no.1 starter told reporters last month that he was still focused on the little things and aware of what he needed to work on this spring to take his game to the next level. "Work on the pickoff move," Strasburg said. "Work on time out of the stretch. Work on commanding the fastballs both sides of the plate, sinkers more so, both sides of the plate too. Just trying to take that next evolution. Trying to get more complete."

"If he can hold baserunners well and he can get early outs than he can allow himself to do that within the same pitch counts that he's had." - Williams on Strasburg going deeper into games

As new Nats' manager Matt Williams explained today, Strasburg is already hard at work and focused on improving what he and his coaches have identified as his weaknesses.

"I saw today Stephen Strasburg in his first bullpen session working on a slide step and varying his looks to home plate," Williams said. "That's the attention to detail we're looking for. So he's concerned about it and he wants to improve on it and his first bullpen session he's working on it, I think that's a really good thing."

The attention to detail is what Williams is looking for from all of the Nationals this spring and he said Strasburg's setting a good example for his teammates. "I just think we have the commitment for the whole club," Williams said. "The fact that Stephen is taking the initiative for himself and for our team is good and certainly guys try to emulate other guys on the club. They talk to each other and he's taken the bull by the horns, so that's good."

Williams said he was impressed with what he's seen of Strasburg's ability to identify and address the weak spots in his game.

"I think he's got a good head on his shoulders," the Nats' manager said. "I think he's certainly got fantastic stuff. And he wants to be out there in a playoff situation or Opening Day or whatever it is and that's good. Everybody wants that I hope." Whether or not Strasburg will be the Nationals' starter on Opening Day, however, Williams wasn't willing to say.

"We haven't determined that yet," he responded when asked. There are no limitations on Strasburg, Williams explained, except the ones he places on himself with his performance. "Any given start, depending on how many pitches he threw his last start or what kind of stressful innings he's got within that start, those determinations will be made."

Strasburg's ultimate goal is efficiency, which will allow him to stay on the mound as long as possible in each start.

"He wants to get deeper into ballgames," Williams said. "He'll be able to do that in other ways. Not necessarily taking his pitch count from 100 to 120 or 130. If he can hold baserunners well and he can get early outs than he can allow himself to do that within the same pitch counts that he's had. So that's his objective, that's what he's trying to do."

As for the surgery to remove loose bodies from his elbow this winter, it doesn't look like it will limit the right-hander in any way this spring. Unfortunately, Strasburg's dealt with the process before in his career, but the days of worrying about his recovery from Tommy John are behind him. "Stephen knows what he needs to do," Williams said, "so he has been through the surgery, he's been through the rehab. He's been through the year after."

"So he knows his body better than anybody," the Nats' manager concluded. "And we've encouraged him to be upfront with us and let us know that if anything bothering him, let us know. And he'll go through the normal progression that everybody else goes through in Spring and be ready for his first start of the season."

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