Matt Williams said the plan was simple for Stephen Strasburg in his first outing of the spring. Just like the rest of the Washington Nationals' starters, the 25-year-old right-hander would try to get through two innings.
"First time out, a couple of innings. We're not going to push them to three at this point, regardless of pitch count," the Nats' new skipper said Monday.
There has been a lot of talk this spring about Strasburg working on adding a slider to his repertoire.
Williams told reporters last week that it was a work in progress that the Nationals' 09 no.1 overall pick was testing out in bullpens and live batting practice and would throw in Grapefruit League games.
"I think he's working on it with intent," Williams said. "So he's not just saying, 'Well, I want to throw this pitch and I'm just going to throw it. He's getting a sense of what it looks like to the hitter and how they react to it."
"I think that he's feeling it right now," the manager explained. "For me, I don't think he said, 'I'm going to throw this pitch this year.' I think he's trying to get a sense of what it would do for his repertoire here, and he'll do it within the games in Spring Training."
The Nats' starter didn't get a chance to work on much of anything in a quick first outing this afternoon, but he did throw a few sliders to the Braves.
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Strasburg faced a familiar opponent in Atlanta's Braves and the defending NL East Champions fielded a DH-enhanced version of their projected every day lineup this afternoon in Lake Buena Vista, Florida's Champion Stadium. Strasburg got one out with one pitch in the bottom of the first when Jason Heyward jumped on a first-pitch fastball and flew out to Bryce Harper in left. B.J. Upton K'd swinging at a 3-2 two-seamer* the Braves' announcers said fooled the outfielder and Brian Goodwin made a diving grab in center to take an extra base hit away from Freddie Freeman and end a quick, 1-2-3 inning.
Evan Gattis grounded weakly to second to start Strasburg's second inning of work before Justin Upton sent a single back up the middle for the Braves' first hit. A grounder to short off Chris Johnson's bat followed, however, and started a 4-6-3 inning-ending DP that brought the Nats' right-hander's first Grapefruit League outing to an end.
15 pitches, 11 strikes according to the Washington Post's James Wagner.
• Here's what those in attendance in Champion Stadium had to say:
A 1-2-3 first inning from Stephen Strasburg, his first frame of spring. Sat at 94 on the stadium gun, touched 96. Got B.J. Upton swinging.— Dan Kolko (@masnKolko) March 4, 2014
Stephen Strasburg with a strong first inning. Jason Heyward flyout, B.J. Upton strikeout and a great catch by Brian Goodwin in center.— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) March 4, 2014
Strasburg likely done for the day. He fired 2.0 one-hit scoreless innings (15 tp). No BB. One K. One GDP. Scoreless after 2 innings at ATL.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) March 4, 2014
[ed. note - " * = the Braves announcers said the pitch that got B.J. Upton swinging was a two-seam fastball. After the game, as noted below, Strasburg said it was a slider."]:
Strasburg pleased with his outing. Happy with the slider. Struck out B.J. Upton with it. Happy he got to work on holding a runner & pickoffs— Dan Kolko (@masnKolko) March 4, 2014
Stephen Strasburg was happy with his outing of the spring. Threw three sliders; struck out B.J. Upton on one.— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) March 4, 2014