MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Free agency not on Strasburg's mind

Nationals righty enters camp in final year of contract

Free agency not on Strasburg's mind

VIERA, Fla. -- Stephen Strasburg is a free agent after the 2016 season, but free agency was the last thing on his mind Saturday morning as he worked out at the Nationals' Spring Training facility.

There he is, doing PFP -- pitchers' fielding practice -- with teammates Jonathan Papelbon, Gio Gonzalez and Bronson Arroyo. Just by looking at Strasburg, he looks relaxed and is ready for a great season.

"It's about getting loose, getting things going, just knowing we have a long way to go," Strasburg said. "I'm taking it easy, one day at a time, getting the work in."

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Asked how much he wants to stay with the Nationals beyond 2016, the right-hander said, "What I can say right now is D.C. has grown on me and my family as a city. The fan base, we really love it here. We are comfortable. It would be exciting to see what this year brings. But as of right now, I don't know what's going to happen. I got offered the one-year deal. That's what I have to focus on this year. We'll see where it takes us."

Strasburg hopes to stay healthy all season and avoid a repeat of last year. During the first half, Strasburg had a tough time getting his work in. He had two stints in the disabled list -- one for neck tightness and another for a left oblique strain. He also missed a start because of back problems.

But once Strasburg came back from the oblique injury, it was like watching the rookie who blew away the Pirates during his Major League debut in 2010. In his final 13 games last year, Strasburg went 8-2 with a 1.76 ERA, striking out 110 batters while walking just 12.

After the season ended, however, agent Scott Boras announced that Strasburg had a small growth removed from his back.

"Everything happens for a reason, so I'm not going to change anything or want to change anything, but I learned a lot more about myself," Strasburg said. "I learned a lot more about the craft. My whole goal is to out-stuff you. You do this enough times, you have to think a little bit more out there. Once I started to realize that, I really tried to make it a point to do my homework. It's developing more of a game plan."

Outlook: Strasburg, SP, WSH

Strasburg vows he will not let free agency affect the way he works on the mound. He pointed that he is a veteran on the team and wants to help the younger players.

"I want to try and be here for some of the younger guys coming up," Strasburg said. "If there is any advice I could give them, great. If not, I'll support them every single day. That's the type of player I want to be. My favorite player was Tony Gwynn. He didn't care about a lot of stuff. The most important thing is what goes [on in the clubhouse] and out there between the lines."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.