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Nationals' Starter Stephen Strasburg on His Slider, Holding Runners and PFP

Washington Nationals' right-hander Stephen Strasburg gave up a run in three innings on Sunday afternoon in Space Coast Stadium, allowing one in the first then throwing two scoreless against the St. Louis Cardinals. Strasburg talked afterwards about his second start of the spring.


Stephen Strasburg's second outing of the spring lasted three innings. He threw a total of 48 pitches on Sunday in Viera, Florida's Space Coast Stadium. He allowed two walks to the first two batters he faced then gave up a run on an RBI single by St. Louis Cardinals' slugger Allen Craig.

"Sliders were good. Probably threw more today than he had the first time out. Curve ball was good." - Matt Williams on Stephen Strasburg's second spring start

Strasburg was up to 21 pitches and down 1-0 when he went to a full count with the fourth batter of the game, Scott Moore, but three pitches later he was out of the first after the Cards' first baseman grounded into a 4-6-3 double play and outfielder Shane Robinson grounded out to short.

Strasburg threw 24 pitches total over the next two innings, giving up a one-out single in the second, but nothing else.

"Got some good work in," the Nationals' 25-year-old starter said after the game. "I felt a little too good in the bullpen out there and tried to paint from the first pitch on instead of really starting a little bit bigger zone and then working off of the middle of the plate. So, made a good adjustment and didn't really see any problems."

"I thought he was really around the zone today," Nationals' manager Matt Williams said after the Nats' 11-1 win. "Although a lot of them were called balls, but I thought he was really around it."

"Sliders were good," Williams said. "Probably threw more today than he had the first time out. Curve ball was good. He looked good to me."

"It felt good," Strasburg said when asked about the slider he's working on adding to his repertoire this spring.

"It's a thing where before I kind of throw it easy, a little unsure, but then like I said, in the pen it felt, like, really good and then I go out there and I was like almost overthrowing it, had a little bit too much movement. But then I took a step back and I started to get some better results with it."

"It's a pitch that I'll mix in there occasionally. I'd say I'm throwing it evenly with my curve ball right now." - Stephen Strasburg on working on his slider this spring

For all the attention the new pitch is getting in coverage from Spring Training, Strasburg explained again that it's just something he's working on. A new note in the scouting report for hitters to think about when they prepare to face him.

"It's a pitch that I'll mix in there occasionally," he said. "I'd say I'm throwing it evenly with my curve ball right now. It's kind of more of a pitch that I'll throw to get contact, instead of making the guy swing and miss."

"When I'm in a jam, I'm going to rely on the pitches that I'm confident in," Strasburg continued. "Like I said, it's a pitch that I'm working on. It's the second game I've thrown it. It feels good. I like the results that I'm getting and it's kind of just another thing that the hitter is going to have to prepare for."

The other big concern for the '09 no.1 overall pick this spring has been working on holding runners, a flaw in his game he and the Nationals' coaches have been working on for a while now.

"It's starting to become more second nature," Strasburg said Sunday, "but then I kind of have the tendency where if I don't get my glove up out of there I have a tendency to kind of drift forward with my upper body and it kind of throws off my mechanics a little bit and so I was able to feel that when it did happen and then kind of make the adjustment, but I still kind of did it instead of just not doing every time, so, it's just something that I'm working on."

In addition to working on his slider and holding runners, before he was done, Strasburg even got in some PFP (Pitchers' Fielding Practice).

With two down in the third, Cards' infielder Kolten Wong hit a sharp grounder to the right side that Danny Espinosa managed to reach. Strasburg was late getting off of the mound, but he managed to make it over to first in time to receive the throw from Espinosa.

"I like to show off some athleticism every now and then," Strasburg joked. "I was a little bit late, kind of didn't really read the ball off the bat too well and I realized that it was kind of in the hole, and I had to bust over there and [Espinosa] made a great play."

That was it for Strasburg on Sunday.

"I think I made an improvement and the biggest thing right now is just extending it," he said afterwards.

"The first outing, I didn't really feel like I was in sync and everything and today in the pen I felt really locked in and so I just tried to go out there and be a little bit too fine with it. It's good that it feels more in sync and more in tune, now I've just got to stick to my game plan and not really try to throw the 0-2 pitch on the paint every time."