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Strasburg 'felt really strong' in spring debut

Right-hander fans two, yields one run over two frames
Special to MLB.com

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Stephen Strasburg's 2018 Grapefruit League debut was brief but effective on Saturday in the Nationals' 8-1 win against the Astros at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

The 29-year-old right-hander was limited to 29 pitches over two innings. He allowed one run on three hits, registered two strikeouts and issued no walks.

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Stephen Strasburg's 2018 Grapefruit League debut was brief but effective on Saturday in the Nationals' 8-1 win against the Astros at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

The 29-year-old right-hander was limited to 29 pitches over two innings. He allowed one run on three hits, registered two strikeouts and issued no walks.

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"It felt good, felt real strong," Strasburg said after his first outing this spring.

Strasburg also pitched from the stretch instead of a full windup for every batter he faced, a change he made last year.

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"There's less variations. I'd say for the most part, less warmup pitches, too," said Strasburg, whose fastball clocked in at 97-98 mph. "My first outing, and I felt really strong. Just got to keep plugging along."

Strasburg was the last starter in the Nationals' rotation to appear in a Grapefruit League game this spring. He stayed in West Palm Beach on Monday and threw a bullpen session instead of making the three-hour trip to pitch against the Braves.

"He threw the ball well. He went down to the bullpen and threw another 20 pitches, which I liked a lot, too," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "For me, it's about keeping the stress level down, just letting him get his work in. It's early in camp, [but] it was good to see him go out there and pitch."

Strasburg is Washington's all-time leader in wins (84) and the Nationals are 117-67 (.636) since 2010 when Strasburg has been the starting pitcher. The lanky veteran is 79-42 with a 3.08 ERA in 172 starts since he returned on Sept. 6, 2011, from right elbow surgery in September of his rookie year. Needless to say, he's a key component if the Nationals are to finally make a postseason run.

"I think everybody here wants a ring, so that's way more fulfilling to me [than personal accolades]," Strasburg said.

Staying healthy and off the disabled list will be key for Strasburg, who has had his share of injuries during his career. Martinez said that Strasburg's pitch count will be limited during spring games, and they'll play it by ear as the season progresses.

"When we start the season, we'll see," Martinez said. "The beautiful thing about it is we've got a lot of days off early on, so it might give him an extra day rest in between [starts]. As the season progresses, we'll see where we're at."

For now, Strasburg is the Nats' No. 2 starter behind ace Max Scherzer, and that's a nasty 1-2 combination if the DL doesn't come calling again.

Steve Dorsey is a contributor to MLB.com.

Washington Nationals, Stephen Strasburg