Notes: Stras ready for season; injury updates

March 29th, 2021

Stephen Strasburg built up to 98 pitches in the Nationals’ Spring Training finale on Monday afternoon against the Astros.

The right-hander allowed two runs on four hits and three walks over 5 2/3 innings in the 2-2 tie. His three strikeouts came against the final batters he faced, and he caught them all swinging.

“That was awesome,” manager Dave Martinez said. “That’s kind of what [pitching coach Jim] Hickey and I really wanted to see. He teeter-tottered today all game, and then those last three batters, he really honed in and did really well. That was a good way to end the spring, and we feel like he’s ready to go.”

Strasburg entered camp looking to ramp up for his 12th season, after carpal tunnel surgery limited him to just five games in 2020. He was hampered this spring by a ruptured plantaris tendon in his left calf, which he is no longer bothered by.

Strasburg concluded Grapefruit League action with a 3.95 ERA over four games. He allowed six runs on eight hits and 10 walks (a team-high), and he struck out 12 over 13 2/3 innings. He held opponents to a .167 batting average, the lowest among the Nationals' starters.

“I wanted to go into camp ready and I feel like I was,” he said. “Then it was just kind of like, you get like a little hiccup and it’s just about not trying to develop some bad habits and favor it. I feel like for the most part, I’ve been trending in the right direction, so I’m just going to keep grinding.”

As Strasburg prepares for his first appearance of the regular season, he will focus on continuing to sync his mechanics and consistently making faster adjustments -- “Going from one pitch to the next, instead of taking three pitches to kind of lock it back in,” he explained.

“It’s been a little bit slower than I anticipated, as far as execution,” he said. “But [I’ve] just got to continue to be patient with myself and know that it’s a long season.”

Health and injury updates
Juan Soto (right calf cramp) and Starlin Castro (mild left hamstring strain) are on track for Opening Day. Both took five at-bats in a sim game on Monday morning -- Soto homered to left-center field and Castro hit a pair of doubles -- and completed running drills. They will participate in a team workout on Wednesday, and Martinez anticipates writing their names in the starting lineup against the Mets.

“They both look fine,” he said. “I expect both of them to play on Thursday.”

Harris to open season on IL
After undergoing a venogram in St. Louis, which revealed he does not have a blood clot in his right arm, an upbeat Will Harris was back with the Nationals in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Monday. The reliever will be evaluated in Washington on Tuesday morning, and he will begin the season on the injured list. Harris has not pitched since throwing one inning of a “B” game on March 13, when he felt numbness in his fingers.

“He’s missed two-and-a-half weeks, so he’s going to have to rebuild again,” Martinez said. “He says he feels good, but he knows that he’s got to throw … We’ve got to treat it like he’s starting Spring Training again.”

Pérez wows with know-how
When the Nationals added Hernán Pérez to their roster, Martinez highlighted the veteran’s defensive versatility. (On Sunday, he played right field, first base and third base.) The 30-year-old Pérez also had made an impression with how he sees the game, and his potential to mentor his new teammates.

“He really understands the game,” Martinez said when asked whose baseball IQ stood out this spring. “I watch him out there at every position -- he moves guys around, he’s in the outfield, he’s talking to [Victor] Robles. ... He’s an unbelievable baserunner. If you watch him run the bases, he’s very intuitive -- how to take an extra base, when to take an extra base, all that stuff. … I watch him in the dugout, and he watches everything that goes on. It’s good to have a guy like that because eventually he could help our younger guys.”