WEST PALM BEACH, Florida – Finding the first unsatisfactory mound, Stephen Strasburg joined the next Friday morning. This was accompanied by receiver Kurt Suzuki during his first session in the spring. Unexpectedly, Vidal Nuno was also placed in the box usually reserved for the first member of each group of throwers.
Director Davey Martinez looked aside. At one point, the coach of the pitchers, Derek Lilliquist, ventured alongside Suzuki from a different angle. The new catcher was surprised by a Strasburg throw.
"I did not know you had that!" Suzuki shouted back.
Strasbourg smiles with a rare smile.
Starting the pitching depth is one of Washington's rare concerns on paper. He is planning about 150 innings from Anibal Sanchez in fourth place. Jeremy Hellickson, who has a clear grip on fifth place at the opening of the camp, has launched 91 innings last season. Injuries and a quick hook kept his total of 19 starts. Even though he is in good health, he probably peaks at 140.
We will rely on Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin to do most of the work. Each reached 200 heats last season. They were two of seven NL pitchers to hit the mark.
Strasbourg is what remains. The Nationals hope that he will be able to make 28 starts. More is the sauce. Less would not be a surprise. Strasbourg has recorded an average of 27 starts per year since 2012. They have produced an average of 163 rounds per year. He is, in many ways, more of a joker than Sanchez or Hellickson. Their contributions do not live up to the expectations or cash investments made by Strasburg. He has a base salary of $ 35 million this season. Hellickson has earned about $ 34 million during his career.
Last year, Strasbourg was different from two things: his speed dropped and he spent much of his time in low season in Washington.
The Nationals used the decrease in pitching speed to allow Strasburg to realize that he could throw well even if he did not throw at 98 mph. In 2017, his fastball averaged 95.6 mph, according to Fangraphs. Last season: 94.5 The organization does not know if its maximum speed will be back.
"I do not know if he'll come back someday in 97, 98, etc.," manager Davey Martinez said Friday. "He can get through it, but I just want to know that, what he did last year, I think you realize he can shoot, he can do other things, so that has a lot helped. So, I think that this spring, he is aware of this and that he will participate in competitions. He learned in the past, I know he's done it. And as I said, he worked hard this winter to become stronger and he looks great. "
This work was done in Washington, where Strasburg said he was trying to "take root" as his family grew up. He now has two children at home. They make the bicoastal difficult in the same way as the San Diego native the previous years.
Martinez often crossed Strasbourg during the right-handed visits twice a week to the Nationals Park. There, Strasburg continued to work tirelessly, a process that involved the purchase of various devices, tone selection and scrapping. His efforts to change the smallest things are perpetual. Sometimes they choke.
"I would say I'm always trying something new," Strasburg said. "It seems like I'm still working on trying to solve the puzzle. But I think this year has been really productive. I left for the ground once we finished in Colorado last year. I started putting the wheels in motion. "
The organization, and surely Strasbourg, would like a return in 2017. His second half of the dominant season slipped him into the finals of Cy Young for the first time in his career. He made 28 starts, had by far his lowest points total (2.52) in a full season, and delivered the playoffs. Lilliquist and Martinez are witnessing a modest maneuver which, hopefully, will bring Strasbourg back to these results.
"One of the things was to start using his legs and staying behind baseball with his head," Martinez said. "Things of that nature, without worrying about … and he did, and he worked on that. Hey, all the pitchers are going for a benefit. As you say, tinker. They always try to find something to perfect themselves, to get that advantage, and they are not different. He must understand that he's really good, and you know, he's still one of the best baseball pitchers and, hopefully, he understands it now, and as I've said, he came back last year and did not have his fastball at the end. of the year, but he still launched well. "
The first contractual disengagement from Strasbourg will take place next season. He is entitled to the option every year thereafter, thanks to his surprise extension of seven years starting in 2016. Another interesting layer is emerging: Strasburg obtains the status of veteran 10/5 in May 2020, this which provides him with a commercial clause. At the end of his contract, his base salary is $ 45 million.
Immediately up front, we'll wade during spring training. Strasbourg will look for adjustments, an appropriate mound and the reproduction of previous results. Nationals just want him to be in good health.
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