The Washington Post

Stephen Strasburg working through minor kinks in second spring start

(Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

Spring training is more about repetitions and less about performance, and that’s exactly what Stephen Strasburg is focusing on at this point. In his second start of the spring, against the Mets on Thursday night in Viera, Strasburg made gradual improvements in certain areas of recent weakness: fastball command and rushed delivery. His performance was still solid: one run on three hits and two walks over three innings and six strikeouts.

Strasburg caught himself slipping into the miscues of his last start early during his warmup in the bullpen on Thursday, an improvement. His timing when separating his hands is still off and he feels the balance in his delivery is not always quite right.

“Being so early, I don’t feel like I’ve had enough mound time for it to just click and not really think about it,” he said. “I’m still trying to feel it out a little bit. The good thing is it felt good when I came out, so that’s the bottom line. I was able to make the adjustment a little bit faster this time. Hopefully this time carry it and build off it in the bullpen coming up and try to do it again next outing.”

Strasburg’s command of his fastball was also off but better than Saturday’s performance. He threw 53 pitches, only 31 of them strikes. His offspeed pitches, ignored the last start, were a point of emphasis this time and were sharp. He fired an almost unfair sequence to Omar Quintanilla in the second inning: a 0-1 curveball followed by a strikeout on a change-up. Strasburg also hasn’t yet adjusted to hitters pouncing on his first-pitch fastballs.

“You want to go in there and start out throwing fastballs and they’re up there hacking, getting a couple hits,” he said. “So it’s hard to keep pounding them in there. Getting a feel for that. It’ll come. Just have to keep pitching and hit the glove regardless if it’s being called a strike or not.”

As he has said before, Strasburg is working to make his pitches move less but with more purpose and more effectively. At this point in spring training, his sinker in particular is a work in progress. Strasburg was fine with allowing a bouncing single up the middle in the third inning because it moved how he wanted it to. But he was more miffed about the hits he allowed in the first inning. “If I take a little bit off and get groundballs instead of a line drive or a flare or whatever,” he said.

James Wagner joined the Post in August 2010 and, prior to covering the Nationals, covered high school sports across the region.



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James Wagner · February 28, 2013