Stephen Strasburg dealt with a calf issue this spring, but after his final Grapefruit League outing, the 32-year-old, 2009 No. 1 overall pick said he was past even thinking about that while he prepared for his 12th major league season.
“The calf’s really — it hasn’t been bothering me,” Strasburg said.
“I’ve been able to do my running and conditioning in-between, so it’s not something I’m concerned with.”
Strasburg’s 2020 campaign came to an end after just two starts and five innings pitched, when an issue with carpal tunnel neuritis required a surgical fix, but the right-hander did what he had to in order to be ready for the beginning of the 2021 season, and before the game today, his manager, Davey Martinez, said he was in a good place.
“He looks great,” Martinez told reporters in his pregame Zoom call. “I saw him yesterday, I sat with him on the bench for a couple of innings. He was very intuitive. He was watching the game, watching the hitters, but I think he’s ready. I really believe that.
“He started — his last outing, he went deep in Spring Training, and he threw a couple bullpens where he looked really good. So, I expect Stephen Strasburg to be Stephen Strasburg.”
Strasburg was Strasburg, throwing a filthy changeup and tossing six scoreless innings in which he gave up just one hit, while striking out eight of the 21 batters he faced in an 85-pitch outing. It wasn’t enough, unfortunately.
Atlanta Braves’ righty Huascar Ynoa matched Strasburg through five scoreless, and the visiting team in the nation’s capital got a two-run home run in the top of the seventh to claim a second straight win in the doubleheader in D.C.
Stephen Strasburg’s Line: 6.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 Ks, 85 P, 48 S, 4/5 GO/FO.
“It was — I mean it was awesome to see,” Strasburg’s manager said of the right-hander’s initial outing of the 2021 campaign, in which he surpassed his inning total from the 2020 season.
“He looked great. His velo was up a tick, so I think good things to come here soon, but he was throwing strikes, he was pounding the strike zone. He looked, really, really good.”
Strasburg talked in Spring Training about the changeup often being the last pitch to come for him as he builds up for a season, but it was clearly there for him in his ‘21 debut.
Stephen Strasburg, Wicked 87mph Changeup. pic.twitter.com/AaxN061SBo— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 7, 2021
“Yeah, again, kind of like what we talked about a couple weeks ago, I just keep throwing it, and for some reason it’s just — it’s a feel pitch,” Strasburg said, “... but in my head I can’t tell myself that it’s a feel pitch. You get the feel by being aggressive with it and throwing it like a fastball.”
Stephen Strasburg, Ridiculous 88mph Changeup.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 7, 2021
h/t several pic.twitter.com/JlusMvZtvf
Strasburg threw 16 changeups total, nine to right-handers and seven to lefties, and he got three of his eight strikeouts with the pitch, with a 62.5% Whiff% on the pitch.
“I mean, they’re definitely a very aggressive team,” Strasburg said, in discussing how he and catcher Tres Barrera tried to attack Braves’ hitters. “It just seems like the first guy comes up hacking, next guys comes up hacking, and so forth, it’s kind of like just keeping the line moving, so I think it’s just important to just change speeds, pitch to both sides of the plate, and stay out of any patterns because they’re all professional hitters over there and they’re watching how you’re attacking the guys ahead of them in the order.”
Strasburg’s manager said he ended the outing when he did, after six innings and 85 pitches because he thought it was enough for the righty’s initial outing this season.
“Yeah. I mean that was it. That sixth inning we were — but he was throwing strikes, and he wasn’t laboring, but for me that was it for him,” Martinez explained.
“It’s about the up and downs with him. He did it once in Spring Training. We just want to keep it right there. We just got to remember he missed a lot of last year, so we got to keep him right where we’re at and build him up.”
Did Strasburg, at any point over the last year, worry about whether the accumulated harm of the injuries he’s dealt with in his career would keep him from getting back to where the veteran was before all these issues have cropped up?
“I think everybody has doubts at times, and I think it’s just a part of realizing that this is a long career and you’re going to have ups and downs,” Strasburg said.
“And I think you start to realize that those doubts tell lies, and you can choose to listen to them or you can choose to just accept the fact that you’re going to go out there and give it everything that you possibly have and I mean, that’s something that you can always live with.”