It's hard not to think about what the future might hold for Washington Nationals' right-hander Stephen Strasburg with free agency looming just one season away unless he signs an extension and especially with now-former Nats' starter Jordan Zimmermann in Viera today as a member of the Detroit Tigers' rotation in the Grapefruit League matchup in Space Coast Stadium.
Strasburg has been clear all winter, however, that he won't let contract talks distract him from what's happening on the mound in his seventh major league campaign. How will he avoid having it become a distraction?
"It just depends on where your heart is," he told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier this week.
"And why are you playing this game?" he asked rhetorically.
"I don't think I ever played this game for the financial aspirations," he explained. "We're very blessed with the salaries that we make across the board, but as a competitor, I want to win and I know every single other guy in this clubhouse wants to win just as bad as I do, so we're going to focus on that and we're going to give it everything we have and take whatever happens."
Strasburg threw an 0-2 fastball by Tigers' shortstop Jose Iglesias for the first out of this afternoon's game, got Detroit's DH Victor Martinez swinging with a fastball for out no.2 (after a ground ball single by first off Mike Aviles' bat).
J.D. Martinez went down swinging at a heater low and away for out and K no.3 of the '09 no.1 overall pick's first frame of the Spring.
Zimmermann signed a 5-year/$110M deal with Detroit after turning down Washington's 1-year/$15.8M qualifying offer and becoming a free agent.
In his first Grapefruit League start for the Tigers, Zimmermann retired the Nationals in order in a quick bottom of the first.
Strasburg threw a two-strike curve ball by Nick Castellanos for his fourth strikeout of the game and the first out of the second, but issued a one-out walk to Tyler Collins.
John Mayberry, Jr. took a fastball for a called strike three and Strasburg's fifth K, but Tigers' catcher Bryan Holaday hit what Detroit's announcers said was a hanging curve out for a long, two-run home run. 2-0 after one and a half.
Strasburg's Line: 2.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 Ks, 34 pitches, 22 strikes -- pitch count according to a tweet from the Washington Post's Chelsea Janes.
Zimmermann retired the Nationals in order in the second as well, came back out for the third and was done for the day after giving up a two-out single.
Game Notes: Jayson Werth actually took a swing at a pitch from Jordan Zimmermann, breaking a Spring Training tradition of taking, taking and taking early in Grapefruit League action. He popped up in his first at bat against the former Nats' starter.
• Shawn Kelley gave up a hit in a scoreless inning of work in the third and Ben Revere, who's hit a total of four home runs in 2,660 career regular season plate appearances hit a two-run blast off Tigers' reliever Bruce Rondon to tie it up at 2-2 after three.
• A.J. Cole gave up a leadoff single by Nick Castellanos and a two-out, two-run home run by Bryan Holaday, who hit his second home run of the game and third of the Spring to put the Tigers up, 4-2.
• Matt den Dekker tripled and scored on an RBI double by Tyler Moore as the Nationals pulled within one in the fifth and 2011 1st Round pick Brian Goodwin brought Moore in from third with a sac fly that tied it up at 4-4.
• Scott Sizemore took Jairo Labourt deep for a solo home run in the sixth that put the Nationals up 5-4. Sizemore's second home run of the Spring.
• Jason Martinson took a bases-loaded walk in the seventh, putting the Nationals up 6-4.
• Two walks and a single loaded the bases for the Tigers in the eighth, but Sammy Solis bounced back to get two Ks and a groundout. Still 6-4 Nats after seven and a half.
Scott Sizemore walks and Matt Skole homered in the Nats' half of the eighth to make it 8-4 Nationals.