Even working with his diminished velocity, Stephen Strasburg pitched well down the stretch late last season, after he returned from his second stint on the Disabled (now Injured) List.
“Because he didn’t have his velo, he actually pitched, and he really felt like, ‘I can get guys out without having to throw 97 MPH,’ which was kind of nice, so in his mind, he feels really good about that,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters as the 2018 campaign wound down.
“It hasn’t quite been what I’m accustomed to,” Strasburg told MLB.com at the end of the season.
“But at the same time, I think it shows that when I get older, and the stuff does tend to go down, that it still plays. It’s just a little bit of confirmation, and I think I’ve got more in the tank for sure. I’ve got to get it back this offseason.”
Martinez said that after seeing what he saw from Strasburg in August/September, he wasn’t necessarily concerned about the ‘09 Nationals’ No. 1 overall pick getting back up in the high 90’s velocity-wise.
“I don’t know if he’s going to get back to the 97s, 98s, stuff like that, he may top out at that,” Martinez said this Spring, “... but I just want him to be aware that, hey, what he did last year, coming back, I think he realized that he can pitch, he can do other things, and that helped him out a lot, so I think going into this Spring he’s aware of that and he’s going to go out there and compete and he learned by it, I know he did, and like I said, he worked diligently this winter on getting stronger, and he looks great.”
“With his stuff he’s fine,” Kurt Suzuki said when asked about Strasburg’s velocity not being quite what it was before the two worked together in the righty’s 2019 debut this afternoon.
“Obviously I’m sure he wouldn’t complain if he still had the 99, but at the same time it’s not what — like with him, it’s — his lower velocity is like some guys’ regular velocity. He still can spin the ball, throw any pitch any time, and he’s learned how to pitch, so that’s good.”
Suzuki was behind the plate working with Strasburg in 2012-13 in his first go-round in D.C., and he said today that he has seen signs of growth from the starter this Spring.
“Obviously the stuff is still there, maybe a little bit more polished, learning how to pitch a little bit more, things like that,” Suzuki said.
“He’s been around for a while now so he’s kind of had an idea of how to get guys out and not have to just try to overpower everybody so I think that’s — the maturity has definitely showed up for me.”
“He pitched really well in Spring [Training],” Martinez said on Saturday morning.
“His velo started going up a little bit, but I like the fact that he’s pitching, and using all his pitches, I think that makes him that much more effective.”
Strasburg’s fastball topped out at 94 MPH in the first inning this afternoon, as the Mets jumped out to a lead with four hits and three runs in the opening frame, and they added one in the second when the right-hander walked the opposing pitcher and watched him score from second on a two-out double to center field, 4-1.
It was 4-3 New York after three, and Strasburg kept it there through six, retiring the final eight hitters he faced in a 96-pitch outing in which he picked up eight Ks total.
It was tied at 4-4 after a Kurt Suzuki sac fly brought Juan Soto in during the Nationals half of the sixth inning, however, so Strasburg was off the hook in what ended up being an 11-8 win for NY.
Stephen Strasburg’s Line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 8 Ks, 96 P, 62 S, 7/2 GO/FO.
“I got better as the game went on,” Strasburg told reporters after the Nationals lost another game to their divisional rivals. “Well, I thought my stuff was pretty good in the first, but they were just whacking it all over the place.
“Sometimes that happens, you’ve just got to weather the storm and try to keep the team in the ballgame.”
“[Strasburg] had a rough first inning,” Martinez said, “... he settles down, pitched a lot better, keeps us in the ballgame, here we come, we battle back, and then the game got away from us in the eighth.”
Strasburg said he, “... just kind of changed sequences a little bit,” after the rough start, and looking at the outing overall, he said he was happy with the results.
“It’s the first start and come out feeling really good, still feeling fresh, probably could have gone further, so that’s the big positive, and just going to continue to focus on the process and focus on sharpening things up.”