Strasburg: Watching Soto develop like Harper

April 9th, 2019

Nationals right-hander has been in the league for 10 years and he is set to start tonight against the Phillies and former teammate Bryce Harper. Strasburg recently spoke with about everything from his goals for 2019 to Juan Soto and, of course, Harper. You were drafted 10 years ago this June. Is it hard to believe it’s been that long?

Strasburg: When you see the guys in the clubhouse, how young they are, you kind of look back on what it was like then. It kind of sinks in. What’s the biggest change in your life since then?

Strasburg: I think it’s experience really. The family has grown. I’ve established roots on the east coast. D.C. is kind of home now. What made you decide to make D.C. your home, because it was San Diego for so many years.

Strasburg: Having kids, wanting them to have the best experience possible. For us, we felt like it was kind of hard to really establish roots if we are going back and forth every year. We just wanted to settle down in one place and experience all four seasons. What’s the biggest thing you like about D.C.?

Strasburg: It’s very different from what I grew up in. A lot of people might not understand it, but when you grow up being in shorts and flip flops year round, it's kind of all the same. You get out there, it gets cold, you get snow in the winter. That’s something I’ve never experienced. I definitely enjoyed that. For a guy who grew up in San Diego, you mean to tell me you like snow?

Strasburg: Yeah. The cold doesn’t bother me. The humidity is tough, but yeah, I enjoy snow. As a baseball player, what is the biggest thing you learned about yourself in the last 10 years?

Strasburg: I learned how much of a perfectionist I can be. In a sense, it’s a good thing. In another sense, it might not work to my advantage. It’s just being comfortable with what I can provide on a daily basis, and that’s attitude and effort. Those are the things I can control.

The mental game is something that is always changing, and it’s always such a huge part of this game. Everybody has ability, everybody has talent. But I think what separates the good ones who might not stick around to the ones who have long careers is their ability to make adjustments and overcome obstacles. In your opinion, do you think you have lived up to expectations?

Strasburg: You can look at it in a couple of different ways. I think there were unrealistic expectations out there. But I think the expectations that I had for myself, I’ve done everything I could to live up to those. I think the type of person that I want to be -- the family man I want to be -- is what’s most important. The results come and go. Those things are going to happen. When you have success and when you have failure ... in enough time you realize it just another inning. It’s just another game. It’s just really a part of a long career. It’s important to focus on those things you can control. The one thing I noticed about you is, you seem a lot more relaxed now than you did when you first came up. What changed?

Strasburg: You just see familiar faces year in and year out. You get a chance to know people. For me, I know that it takes a while because I’m a pretty reserved, shy person. I had a chance to play with a lot of great players along the way. I had a chance to learn from a lot of great players and coaches, for that matter. Through those experiences, I kind of realized that it gets to the point where you want to pass down some of the wisdom and knowledge that you acquired. The only way to do that is to continue to build relationships with the younger guys in the clubhouse. That’s kind of where your "legacy" is at. In the baseball circle, when guys ask about other guys, they don’t ask, “Is that guy is a good player?” They ask, “What was he like in the clubhouse?” That’s the respect you get across the league -- the type of teammate that you are. Not the guy that puts up stupid numbers. Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper are no longer on the team. Do you consider yourself one of the leaders of the team?

Strasburg: I think it’s easy for people on the outside looking in. They want to pinpoint those certain individuals and say they are the leaders in the clubhouse. Typically, it’s the loudest guys. That’s the nature of it. I would like to think if anybody has an issue or wants some advice -- my advice -- they should be comfortable approaching me, and I would give it to them. Other than that, I would prefer to do my job and not really feel like I need to vocalize it across the clubhouse all the time. If you had to do it over again, what would you do differently during the last 10 years?

Strasburg: Nothing, really. Not even in 2012 with the innings limits?

Strasburg: No. ... I think everything happens for a reason. I’m so thankful and blessed that I continue to play this game. I’m going to continue to do it as long as I can. What are you doing this year to avoid injuries? You have been unlucky when it comes to injuries.

Strasburg: It’s kind of this puzzle that’s been escaping me for some time. I think I’m at the point where I have to grind it out as best as I can. It’s not like there’s something in the future that I’m working for other than winning a World Series ring. That’s the ultimate goal. To get there, it’s about taking the ball every fifth day or every sixth day and give it everything I have. When all is said and done, what happens, happens. Have you done anything this offseason to stay healthy?

Strasburg: Yeah. Staying back in D.C. was a benefit -- going to the field [Nationals Park] a couple of times a week, I have a gym in my basement. I spent a few days [a week] in there, too. It was kind of head’s down after the [2018] season ended. I really just tried to address some of the issues that plagued me last year. I started throwing a little earlier in the offseason. [The doctor] recommended as I get older to start picking up a baseball. ... I really worked on the strength training. I just try to build up strength as best I could. Just really try to fine-tune mechanics, not feel like I need to do more than my body is capable of doing. You have five years left on your contract. What are your personal goals?

Strasburg: Ultimate goal is to be durable. To a certain degree, that is out of my control. It’s just really give it everything I have. I’m going to do that. I think that is in my nature. It’s important to instill that in the younger guys. That’s something you can focus on. The results are going to be what they are going to be. I have a lot of faith in this clubhouse because of the guys we have in here. There is a lot of talent in here. We are going to get where are want to go as long as [we stay focused]. How weird is it not to have Bryce Harper on the team?

Strasburg: Well, I think it is definitely different. You have a guy who has all the talent in the world -- seeing him grow from Day 1 into the player that he is now. He got what he wanted. More power to him. At the same time, it’s nice to see Juan Soto come up last year and do what he did and, obviously, with [Victor] Robles being here, it’s a testament to the organization to really just have them step in and fill that huge void almost immediately. It’s weird, because Bryce came up when he was 19 and did what he did all these years. And now I get to sit back and watch Juan Soto do the same thing. How impressive is Soto?

Strasburg: His character is off the charts. One of the first things that he did after he got called up was, he wanted to learn English, so he can do his interviews in English. I was really impressed with that because I know it’s got to be very uncomfortable. It would be uncomfortable for me to speak Spanish. For him to take that and have interaction with guys who do speak English has been great. He comes on the bus every day the same. He gives everybody fist pumps. I know he is only 19, 20 years old, but he is one of the leaders in the clubhouse. Why do you think the Nationals have fallen short of a World Series, and do you think the window is closing?

Strasburg: You never know. That’s the thing about baseball. They talk about windows and stuff. Teams fall into that trap and they go, “Oh, now we have to rebuild.” I don’t think the Nationals feel that way and that’s how good organizations are run. Year in and year out, you are going to be competitive. The ultimate goal is winning and we have been able to do that for extended period of time ... and haven’t able to get those wins in the playoffs.

It’s still a game. The way the playoffs are, a lot of strange things could happen. We’ve had those things happen. I think we’ve learned from them. That has made us stronger. The games are all the same, even in the playoffs. There is a lot more media, a lot more fan excitement. But between the lines, it’s the same game. It comes down to executing when you need to, doing the little things and I think that has been preached pretty heavily this year and I think that’s going be a huge asset moving forward.