'Awesome to see': Stras K's 8 Braves in debut

April 8th, 2021

WASHINGTON -- Five innings was all was able to throw last season. In his 2021 debut on Wednesday, he exceeded that total, tossing six scoreless frames in his first game since Aug. 14, 2020.

Strasburg has returned to form after undergoing season-ending carpal tunnel surgery in his right (throwing) hand. Facing the Braves in Game 2 of a doubleheader, he struck out eight and allowed just one hit and two walks in the 2-0 loss.

“Obviously, you can see the results and you can feel happy about that, but I think it's really just focusing on execution,” Strasburg said. “I feel like my execution was not very good most of Spring Training. … I thought my execution was a lot better today, and it's a step in the right direction. So I'm just going to focus on continuing to fine-tune that.”

Strasburg worked his pitch count up to 85, including 48 strikes, and mixed in his fastball, curveball, changeup and sinker. His velocity averaged 94.6 mph.

“It was awesome to see,” manager Dave Martinez said. “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.”

If it looked like Strasburg missed pitching, it sure looked like he missed hitting, too. Batting for the first time since 2019 because of the universal DH, Strasburg doubled into right-center field in the third inning against Braves starter Huascar Ynoa. He joined Adam Wainwright, Zack Greinke, Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Kershaw, Ian Kennedy and Shelby Miller as the only active pitchers with 10-plus doubles.

“It was nice I was able to turn it around still,” Strasburg said. “I definitely wasn’t on time the first couple of pitches, so I just realized I had to kind of cheat to it.”

Strasburg’s return to the mound (and the plate) was delayed when the start of Washington’s season was postponed until Tuesday because of positive COVID-19 cases. Before he was cleared to throw a bullpen during a workout at Nats Park, he got creative with staying loose.

“With one of our bullpen catchers, we found a Little League field over in Virginia,” he explained. “[We] crawled through some bushes, hopped a fence and played catch one day. And then at that point I was like, 'I don't want to do that again until I can get back on the field.'”

After eight months of rehab, Spring Training and climbing fences, Strasburg was back on the field where he’s dominated over his career.

“It was really just kind of focusing on the process, trying to make some tweaks from the last spring start, trying to be patient with myself -- especially because you can sit there and think about what it’s going to look like after having such a weird start to the season,” he said. “So it was just going out there and taking it one pitch at a time.”