For two tantalizing, fleeting months to begin the year, it looked like Stephen Strasburg was finally going to put it all together. He won his first 10 decisions, posted a filthy 11.1 K/9 and 4.3 K/BB in 106.2 first-half innings, and surprisingly took himself out of the 2017 free agent market by signing a seven-year, $175 million extension at the beginning of May. Then he missed a month with an upper back strain, and when he got back on the mound in June, the magic was gone. A brutal outing in Coors Field in August led to a seemingly inevitable DL stint due to elbow inflammation that effectively ended his season, and his final line was much the same as it had been in 2015, featuring a stellar strikeout rate that didn't seem to be in sync with a merely good ERA and WHIP figures over fewer than 150 innings. Strasburg's arsenal remains exceptional, with a 95 mph fastball contrasting with a devastating high-80s changeup and low-80s curve, but the slider he threw 17.1 percent of the time was blamed for his latest injury issues, and he vowed to throw it far less in 2017.
The Nationals have lined up their rotation in an order that suggests Strasburg will take the mound for Opening Day, MASN Sports reports. The Nationals likely will wait for their third game to start Max Scherzer, who is making his first Grapefruit League appearance of the year Wednesday. Although it hasn't been officially announced, Strasburg is in line to start Opening Day against Miami, with Tanner Roark handling the second game.
Strasburg allowed two runs on four hits and a walk while striking out three over 4.1 innings during Sunday's Grapefruit League game against the Marlins. He tossed 79 pitches in his longest spring outing to date; while Strasburg's 7.20 ERA so far is ugly, his 12:2 K:BB in 12.1 innings is a better reflection of how he's looked during the exhibition schedule. The 28-year-old is on pace to be ready for Opening Day.
Strasburg allowed two runs on three hits while striking out five over four innings in Monday's Grapefruit League game against the Tigers. The Washington Post reports that Nats pitching coach Mike Maddux spotted on video Strasburg was tipping his pitches in his last outing, and after making a slight adjustment to how he grips and sets the ball from the stretch, the right-hander posted much better results Monday. "I always have a tendency to tip pitches. I think it's just the way I grip the ball," he said. "My hands are pretty big, and if I'm not paying attention, I do little things. They've got everything on video, so they know all the little things that I do." The 28-year-old has only topped 200 innings once in a season during his career, so staying healthy remains the biggest obstacle between Strasburg and a Cy Young-caliber campaign.
Strasburg got hammered for six runs on seven hits and a walk in two innings, striking out one, during Wednesday's Grapefruit League game against the Cardinals. Still working exclusively from the stretch, Strasburg was topping out at 97 mph with his fastball, so the results were less important than the process in this one. Max Scherzer's finger injury likely means Strasburg will take the bump on Opening Day for the Nats, and he's got plenty of time to round into form before then.
Strasburg will make his Grapefruit League debut against the Cardinals on Friday, Jamal Collier of MLB.com reports. Strasburg said that he's in full strength and feels no residual soreness in his elbow. However, Washington has held true to their plan of easing the fragile righty into action throughout the spring. To this point, Strasburg has thrown bullpen sessions and pitched in an intrasquad contest, but will finally be put to the test in Friday's outing.