On days he does not pitch, Stephen Strasburg patrols center field during batting practice and walks off the field soaked in sweat. He dashes and sprints to catch fly balls from his teammates, a way to have fun and give himself extra conditioning in idle moments. All of the Nationals’ pitchers do the same.
Like the rest of the baseball world, Strasburg watched Yankees closer Mariano Rivera crumple to a heap in Kansas City this week while chasing a fly ball during practice. Rivera tore a ligament the meniscus in his knee, knocking him out for the rest of the season. But Strasburg had no intention of stopping the practice.
“I feel like I already am careful,” Strasburg said. “I’m not trying to rob home runs or anything. It’s just, like, running and stuff. If I can’t quite get to a ball, I just let it drop. It’s not like it’s a real game.”
The Nationals have no plans to curtail their pitching staff’s shagging flies. They view it as a routine part of the game, and one random incident will not change their view.
“It was just a freak thing,” pitching coach Steve McCatty said. “You got to have a little fun. It’s unfortunate. It’s a terrible thing. But you can’t put everyone in a fish bowl. Shagging is fun.”
Strasburg, for one, like to use shagging during batting practice as one means to stay in shape without it feeling like drudgery.
“I’m just trying to mix it up and stuff, stay active,” Strasburg said. “Stay away from the whole monotonous routine. When that gets old, it’s harder and harder for me to really push myself into it. I’m trying to switch it up and give it everything I have and make sure I’m ready to go every fifth day.”