Christian Garcia’s new role, Stephen Strasburg’s first bullpen session

Stephen Strasburg throws  Tuesday as pitching coach Steve McCatty looks on. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Stephen Strasburg throws Tuesday as pitching coach Steve McCatty looks on. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

 

Few Nationals players face a more pivotal spring training than Christian Garcia, the rookie right-hander who tore his way through a call-up last September. Garcia will come to his first major league spring training both fighting for a spot on the Nationals’ roster and waiting to learn his exact role.

Garcia knows the Nationals want him to build endurance for a switch from reliever to starter. He is not quite sure how that will happen. He hasn’t spoken about his schedule with pitching coach Steve McCatty yet. Last fall, Manager Davey Johnson said he wanted to see Garcia become a starter.

“I’ll probably be throwing multiple innings and they’ll stretch me out a little bit,” Garcia said. “But I don’t know to what extent.”

Garcia thrived last year as a reliever, his first year pitching out of the bullpen after a career stunted by injury. As a starter in the Yankees’ farm system, Garcia underwent three elbow operations, including Tommy John surgery twice. But his four-pitch arsenal, which includes a wicked changeup and a 12-to-6 curve, lends itself to starting.

“I’m open to the idea as long as it’s playing in the big leagues,” Garcia said. “I’ll do whatever it takes to play in the big leagues. I got one taste of it last year, and there’s nothing like it. It was a dream of mine growing up. Being able to get to feel it and live it, it’s just a dream come true now. I don’t want anything but that.”

Garcia said he prepared the same for this spring as he would any other. “The jobs are different, but the training’s the same,” Garcia said. “Maybe for other people it’s different.” It will certainly be a fascinating spring for Garcia, one of the Nationals’ most fascinating pitchers.

>>> Stephen Strasburg threw his first bullpen session of spring training, firing 37 pitches to minor league catcher Sam Palace as McCatty looked on behind him. Strasburg’s session was perfectly smooth, even including a smile before he chucked a perfect changeup over the right side of the plate on his final pitch.

Strasburg looks to be in stunningly good physical condition, all corded muscle from head to toe. He has talked this offseason about his desire to be the workhorse of the Nationals’ staff. He came in physically prepared to do so.

>>> Just a quick procedural note: While pitchers and catchers reported today, they did not actually begin workouts. They kind of work up to that. Tomorrow, they’ll take physicals. Thursday, they’ll finally have their first workout. It’s the same process for position players. They report Friday, take physicals Saturday and then the first full-squad workout comes Sunday.

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