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Washington Nationals’ Opening Day 2017 - Stephen Strasburg: Pitching out of stretch no big deal...

Stephen Strasburg will be pitching out of the in today’s season opener against the Marlins. Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker and Strasburg talked about the change...

MLB: Spring Training-Washington Nationals at St. Louis Cardinals Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Strasburg has been here before. The veteran of seven major league campaigns has made three Opening Day starts and will make his fourth this afternoon in Nationals Park when the 2017 campaign begins with the first of a three-game season-opening set with Miami’s Marlins.

Washington’s ‘09 No. 1 overall pick took the ball on Opening Day for three consecutive seasons in 2012-14 before Max Scherzer signed with the Nationals and got the nod in each of the last two years (2015-16).

Asked for his memories of previous Opening Day outings in a press conference with the D.C. baseball media this past Friday, Strasburg, who has, over the years, become slightly more comfortable in these settings, didn’t have much to say.

“Umm... it’s Game 1 of 162 and hopefully more,” Strasburg said, “but Spring has come to a close. No more trying to work on things and mess with new pitches maybe. Now it’s go-time, it’s time to compete.”

Another reporter wondered what made Opening Day special for Strasburg. Honestly, he said, it isn’t all that special.

“I’d say like, it feels a little different,” Strasburg explained, “but for the most part, I think I’ve been around long enough that maybe if it’s a player’s first Opening Day that it would be more special, but I think it’s just the start of a new year and I think you learn over time that it’s not necessarily all about how you start, but how you finish.

“Those games in September, those are the ones that really stick out in your memory more.”

Strasburg, of course, made just one start last September, returning from a DL stint for elbow soreness and lasting only 2 13 innings before he was shut down with what was eventually diagnosed as a partial tear of the pronator tendon in his right arm.

When he showed up for Spring Training this year, fully healed and ready to go, he came with a plan to pitch out of the stretch exclusively, in an effort, he explained, to simplify his mechanics.

“I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with it,” he said on Friday. “But if you ask any pitcher, there are days when their mechanics feel better than others, so I think that is going to be an ongoing process, but that’s no different from what I experienced pitching out of the windup and stretch before, so it’s just trying to get your work in, trying to focus on the process, and like I said, being locked in August, September — hopefully before then, but — it’s kind of like a long season, so you’ve just got to keep grinding.”

“It was new, it was different for us,” Dusty Baker told reporters on Friday when asked for his thoughts on Strasburg pitching exclusively out of the stretch.

“He decided that he was going to do it and so as long as he feels comfortable doing it — there are a lot of guys that pitch out of the stretch, especially relievers, and so until he’s not effective, then you let him do it.

“Stras is Stras. Let’s not talk about him like he’s some rookie his first time out there.

“He’s closing in on being a veteran now at a very young age, so, we just have to let him pitch.”

Baker was asked if he planned on handling Strasburg any differently this season, after the right-hander once again dealt with injury issues last season.

“Wasn’t he protected from the very beginning?” Baker asked rhetorically.

“How much more protection can you do or give and expect to win at the same time.

“If you guys got any ideas, I’ll gladly take them. But I remember he was protected from the time he got here, wasn’t he? I wasn’t here. The stretch thing, I think he came up with that to try to protect himself.”

“You guys want to make like a big deal out of it,” Strasburg said of all the fuss over his decision to stay out of the stretch, “but it’s still just throwing a baseball. It’s not like I’m trying to throw left-handed or sidearm or anything so, it’s just — you get this feeling when it’s right and you want to be able to repeat it as many times as you can, and make good pitches. I feel like it’s something that helps me do that.”

So is he fully committed to the change? Pitching out of the windup, as he has for his entire career, he did manage to get off to a (13-0) start in his first 17 outings last season, before the injury issues and rough outings led to the DL stint in mid-August and the end of his 2016 campaign after one start in September.

“I’m going to make that decision when I decide to,” Strasburg said.

“But I think I can’t really focus on results necessarily. My goal is to — hopefully that it’s going to help me repeat my mechanics a little bit better, hopefully keep me out there on the field, going deep into a game. That’s the No. 1 goal.

“Pitching out of the windup, it’s really not that big of a difference from what I’m doing now. Especially when you look at other guys, who’ve just kind of turned and kind of gone through the same windup, I don’t think like that little movement is really doing anything extra for me, except maybe throwing off my timing and everything, but as of right now it feels good and I’m just going to keep working on it.”