Strasburg discusses first start, future

Strasburg discusses first start, future

Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, made his Spring Training debut Tuesday and lived up to the hype that has surrounded him the past two years.

Strasburg pitched two scoreless innings, allowing two hits and striking out two batters in the Nats' 9-4 loss to the Tigers.

In the first inning, Strasburg retired the Tigers in order. In the next inning, Strasburg faced the toughest part of the order. He threw two 81-mph curveballs to Miguel Cabrera before striking out the slugger on a 98-mph fastball.

The next hitter, Carlos Guillen, grounded out to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman on a 97-mph fastball. After giving up consecutive singles to Don Kelly and Alex Avila, Strasburg regrouped and struck out Brent Dlugach looking on a 3-2 81-mph curveball to end the inning.

Strasburg will be making his second start of the spring Sunday against the Cardinals. MLB.com caught up with Strasburg on Thursday to talk baseball.

MLB.com: Has it sunk in that you've pitched in your first Spring Training game this past Tuesday against the Tigers?

Strasburg: Oh yeah. It's all good, and now I'm back in a routine. I'm still feeling everything out, so I'm trying to figure what's going to work and what's not, as far as getting ready for your next outing. Everything feels great. My body is bouncing back real well. I'm ready to go out there and do it again.

MLB.com: What improvements do you have to make from your first game?

Strasburg: I had a lot of adrenaline going. I really wasn't able to execute pitches the way I wanted to. ... I'll keep going with I've been working on and I will be a lot more relaxed. ... I got my feet wet. I know what it feels like to go out there. I know what it's like to face guys I watched on TV growing up. I have that feeling now, so I just want to build on it.

MLB.com: Manager Jim Riggleman feels you are already developed, but you have to get used to the routine of pitching every fifth day and working in between starts. Is that true?

Strasburg: Yes, in a sense. It's something I have done before. It's not totally new to me. I think what he is referring to is just developing a program that you should follow that is going to put your body in the best shape possible for your next outing. It's all about sticking to the program. Obviously, the program is going to change a little bit.

The throwing program mainly is going to change from the way it was in college. For me, I threw a lot in between starts when I was in college. Bullpens were pretty much 100 percent game-like bullpens. Now it's more touch and feel -- just work on mechanics. That's something I need to learn. I need to learn that in the bullpen, you have to be go at it nice and easy -- nice and fluid -- instead of just trying to throw everything 100 percent. My arm feels great.

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MLB.com: You haven't pitched in a regular-season game, but you have received a lot of publicity. Are you surprised by the attention you have received?

Strasburg: Yeah. I really don't know what to expect. This is my first [experience in terms of attention]. So I really don't have anything to compare it to. So I'm just trying to go with the flow. Whatever happens, happens. I'm going out there and try to throw to the best of my abilities. I really can't compare. I can't really say it's so much more crazy than it would be if the Nationals were in the playoffs last year.

MLB.com: Do you like the idea where the Nationals are limiting your interviews?

Strasburg: For me, it's kind of nice to get it all done in one day. So many of the questions were about the anticipation or what I expect myself to be. That's really a hard thing for me to talk about, because I really don't know. I would say the easiest thing to talk about is what happens on the field. I can talk about baseball all day, whether it's good or bad.

MLB.com: You seem so relaxed compared to last year. Even after your start against the Tigers, you were relaxed. Why?

Strasburg: It's a combination of many things. It wasn't a baseball setting I was used to. A lot of the time, teammates kept me relaxed. It's that clubhouse camaraderie. It's part of the game. I realize that. Obviously, a lot of these guys gave me a lot of good advice. I'm starting to really understand about getting into a routine.

MLB.com: Who are your mentors on the Nationals?

Strasburg: They have all said their little things. A lot of it is me asking questions. I try to ask everybody questions. I try to pick everybody's brain. They all have a lot more experience than I have. It's about trying to soak it all in. Not everything is going to work for me, but as long as you try to receive the advice, sit down, think about it and at least try it. You might pick up on something that might take your game to the next level. I really try to stay open minded and learn from everybody.

MLB.com: General manager Mike Rizzo continues to say that he has a plan for you. In your heart-of-hearts, do you think you will start the season in the Minor Leagues?

Strasburg: I have no idea. I really don't. I know that God has a plan for me. Rizzo has a plan for me. It's ride from here on. It's really not a big deal to me whether it's in the Major Leagues or the Minor Leagues. ... I'm trying to learn as much as I can.

MLB.com: What's ahead for you?

Strasburg: Day in and day out, it's nice to have some structure. It's nice to know what to expect each day and get into a routine. I'm excited to be here during Spring Training.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.