Matt Williams told reporters last week that his first impression of 25-year-old Washington Nationals' starter Stephen Strasburg this spring was a good one.
"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."
Strasburg's ultimate goal, the Nats' manager explained, is increased efficiency in every part of his game which will allow him to stay around longer every fifth day.
"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."
Pitching Coach Steve McCatty went into more detail about how Strasburg and the other Nats' starters are working on issues with holding runners in an interview with Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier this afternoon on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.
The problem, McCatty explained, was rarely with the Nationals' catchers.
"It's usually never on the guy behind the plate," he said. "Usually you get set in your times and people take off on you and they know when you're going to go and you can be quick to the plate but they get such a great jump because your tendency is to come set and go. Other guys -- Let's put it this way, we're doing a much more efficient job of stressing times to the plate. A lot of people don't believe that you really get a pitcher to try to be quicker to the plate just because it might affect their stuff and that you let their stuff play out and not shorten up on their stuff by trying to be too quick, but we're trying to get them to work quicker and get their stuff to work along with it."
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"As long as we can get them to do a good job of holding the ball," McCatty said, "changing their times and looks and all that kind of stuff and deliver the ball 1.35 or less, that's what you're looking for. You can say you want to be 1.30 or 1.20 where Strasburg is at times, he used to be under 1.0. But when you get real set and repeat your delivery every time and do the same thing, that's where the runners get the jump on you. And Stephen has really pushed himself to do a better job of that, worked on it in every bullpen that he's done and he's gotten better."
• Listen to the entire interview with Grant Paulsen, Danny Rouhier and Nats' Pitching Coach Steve McCatty:
McCatty on Strasburg's new pitch: "He’s tinkering with it and willing to do it, and so far it’s looked really good." http://t.co/oWqV5ZaihM— 106.7 The Fan (@1067thefandc) February 25, 2014