Strasburg's fastball 'better than last time'

March 10th, 2021

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Take one step forward, that’s how is viewing his return this season.

Strasburg made his first appearance since Aug. 14 on Tuesday night when he started in the Nationals’ 4-4 tie against the Astros. The 32-year-old was limited to just five innings in 2020 because of carpal tunnel neuritis in his right hand, which required season-ending surgery.

“The ball was coming out pretty good,” said manager Dave Martinez. “I thought he looked really good. I talked to him when he came out; he said he felt good, which is awesome. Now it's just a matter of continuing to build him up."

Strasburg arrived at Spring Training healthy and, after building up, he was cleared to throw up to 40 pitches in his first outing. His approach was to utilize all of his pitches and increase the number of changeups -- “Command of that is the thing that comes last, for some reason,” he noted. Strasburg tossed 38 pitches with four strikeouts and one walk in 1 2/3 hitless, scoreless innings.

“I learned that my fastball command is better than last time I pitched,” Strasburg said. “Just reading the swings, it seemed like it had some life to it, which was nice. It’s really just kind of fine-tuning when you want to expand the zone and what guys you want to do that on.”

Strasburg is no stranger to returning from setbacks. He underwent Tommy John surgery toward the end of his rookie year in 2010, and he didn’t pitch a full season until ‘12.

“This isn’t my first rodeo when it comes to injuries and stuff,” Strasburg said. “So I’m kind of at a point where I’m going to go out there and give it everything I have and roll with the punches.”

After finishing an abbreviated 2020 season 0-1 with a 10.80 ERA, Strasburg is looking to get back to ‘19 form. That memorable year, he posted an 18-6 record and a 3.32 ERA before earning the World Series Most Valuable Player Award.

“Spring Training hasn’t really been an issue for me in the past -- it’s been more wearing down at some point during the season,” Strasburg said. “The biggest thing is just listening to your body. I do have a tendency to try and work on things a little bit too much in between when the results aren’t there.

“I feel like with age and stuff, if I’m able to be in a situation where you’ve got a routine and you’ve got a training staff, I feel pretty confident about putting myself in a good position to help the team win every five days.”