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Strasburg brings health, new perspective to camp

VIERA, Fla. -- Right-hander Stephen Strasburg arrived in camp on Friday, and he let it be known that he plans to be a better pitcher by working on such elements as his pickoff move and holding baserunners. After all, basestealers were successful more than 80 percent of the time against Nationals pitchers in 2013.

"I want to get back to the swing of things, not really trying to go out there and give max effort every time," Strasburg said. "I'm trying to ease my way into the season and see what it's going to feel like. So I have to be there when it matters."

Despite dealing with soreness in his right elbow last season, Strasburg was there when it mattered, making 30 starts and putting up a respectable 3.00 ERA and 191 strikeouts in 183 innings. After the season, however, he underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove bone chips from the elbow.

Strasburg feels much better physically.

"I guess my pain threshold is pretty good," he said. "Last year it really didn't bother me. [However], the mechanics didn't feel right, so I lost a little bit of command on my fastball. My changeup wouldn't move consistently, and my sinker wasn't there altogether.

"Looking back on it, compared to how I feel now, that's the one big thing. My body kind of compensated for not having the full flexibility. But I was able to have some focus and bear down when I needed to in order to get the job done."

Strasburg has also put life in perspective. In the past it seemed as though he was always in a hurry, as though he didn't have time to talk to the media. But becoming a father in October has changed the way he thinks about life.

"You caught me on a good day," he joked. "It puts everything in perspective. At the end of the day, it's a game, and you should enjoy it. There is a lot more to life than just baseball. I'm going to enjoy it while I can play it. I'm also looking forward to other things down the road."

It's hard for Strasburg to believe that he is a father. It seems like yesterday when, at the age of 20, he was selected by the Nationals as the first overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.

"I definitely enjoy [parenthood]. It's fun to come home to," he said.

Though Strasburg is hoping for his best season to date, he declined to say what kind of numbers he would like to put up.

"A lot of that stuff you can't control," he said. "The work that you put in, it's all going to even itself out. So I try not to look into that too much."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats.
Read More: Washington Nationals, Stephen Strasburg