Stephen Strasburg hasn’t pitched a full season in three years, and he’s determined to end the streak.
The Nationals’ starter is heading into Year 3 of the seven-year, $245 million extension he signed after leading the club to its first World Series title in 2019. In the two seasons since, Strasburg has made just seven starts. He finished 2020 on the Injured List with carpal tunnel neuritis in his right hand then did the same in 2021 after undergoing thoracic outlet surgery.
On Tuesday, he faced live batters for the first time in nine and a half months. Strasburg threw 25 pitches in a live bullpen session at the Nationals’ spring training complex in West Palm Beach, facing teammates Josh Bell, Victor Robles, Juan Soto and Lane Thomas. Riley Adams caught him behind the plate and spoke glowingly of his command.
The right-hander, who reported to camp without any lingering effects from the surgery, emerged from the session free of any hiccups. However, manager Davey Martinez wouldn’t commit to Strasburg being on the mound for Opening Day on April 7.
“My focus was today, getting him through today,” Martinez said in a press conference Tuesday. “Tomorrow, we’ll have another conversation, see how he’s doing after today. As of right now, his progression is two days off and then he’s gonna get an up-down and throw two innings [of] live BP and then we’ll see how he bounces back from that. But I’m not putting anything on him right now…It’s gonna be a process and we’ll see where we end up.”
Martinez added that Strasburg’s availability will be based on how he feels moving forward, but “today was a good day and he did well.” Strasburg met with a few media members in West Palm Beach following his bullpen session and said the lockout-delayed start to spring training didn’t do him any favors in his preparation for the season.
“For me, it’s about sticking to the program, and my routine is having a six-week spring training,” Strasburg said, as quoted by The Washington Post. “I think of all years to just try and be aggressive, I don’t know if this is necessarily the right year and the right time to do it. So my goal is to be ready when I’m ready and be there the rest of the way.”
In most years, Strasburg would be ramping up with hopes of helping the Nationals compete for a playoff spot. However, Washington is projected to finish with its worst record in years after conducting a fire sale at last season’s trade deadline.
As a result, the 33-year-old is putting his body first, which may mean Patrick Corbin or another member of the Nationals’ pitching staff takes the ball against Jacob deGrom and the New York Mets on Opening Day.
“It was really good to see him on the mound and the biggest thing for us, as you know, is to keep him on the mound and keep him healthy,” Martinez said. “So we’re gonna do whatever it takes to do that.”