New Manager Matt Williams waited until after tonight's Grapefruit League game to make the announcement, then he confirmed what was expected: Stephen Strasburg will be the Washington Nationals' Opening Day starter for the third straight season when he takes the mound on Monday, March 31st in New York's Citi Field in the season opener with the Mets.
Strasburg, 25, made his first Opening Day start on April 5, 2012 in Chicago's Wrigley Field in the '09 no.1 overall pick's first full season back following Tommy John surgery in 2010. The 6'4'' right-hander went seven innings that day, giving up five hits, a walk and one earned run while striking out five Cubs' hitters.
Last season, Strasburg took the mound against the Miami Marlins in Game 1 of 162 in the 2013 campaign, holding the Nationals' NL East rivals to three hits over seven scoreless innings at home in Nationals Park in which he threw just 80 pitches total.
Strasburg is coming off a +3.2 fWAR 2013 campaign in which he was (8-9) with a 3.00 ERA, 3.21 FIP, 16 HRs (0.79 HR/9) and 56 walks (2.75 BB/9) allowed and 191 Ks (9.39 K/9) collected in 30 starts and a career-high 183 IP.
Through three starts this spring, Strasburg is (2-0) with five hits, three walks and one earned run allowed in 9 IP over which he's struck out five while holding opposing hitters to a .172 AVG.
"Stephen Strasburg will pitch for us Opening Day," Williams told reporters tonight. "Just because his experience there. He's done it before. Certainly, the way it's all structured he's in line to do that and he's earned it. So he'll toe that slab for us Opening Day."
Asked if anything in particular has stood about Strasburg now that he's watched him up close this spring, Williams said the right-hander's desire to keep improving his game is an impressive trait.
"Just that he wants to be even better than he is," the Nats' first-year skipper explained. "Coming in to spring, certainly one of his objectives was to hold baserunners better. He's working on those things here because he wants to be as good as he can possibly be. So, that's good. Again, he's got great stuff. He's certainly got experience on Opening Day."
"Opening Day is special," Williams said, while noting that each of the season's 162 games are important. "It's an honor for anybody that's chosen to go Opening Day. Is it more important than any other start he's going to make throughout the year? No. But it's Opening Day. And so he's ready for it, he's excited for it and so are we."
It's not too long now. March 31st, 2014 - 1:10 pm EST. Stephen Strasburg vs the Mets.