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With Strasburg on the mound, Nats fall to Astros

Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg watches a pitch in the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the Houston Astros, Sunday, March 4, 2012, in Viera, Fla. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Craig Heist, wtop.com

Strasburg starts, Nats fall again

VIERA, Fla. – Stephen Strasburg made his first spring training start on Sunday. That’s about the only positive thing the Nationals could take out of the day, as they lost to the Houston Astros 10-2 at Space Coast Stadium to drop to 0-2 in Grapefruit League play.

Strasburg went 2.2 innings, giving up two runs on three hits while striking out three. He allowed a one-out, solo home run to catcher Chris Snyder in the third inning. He was pulled after throwing 44 pitches, 26 for strikes.

“My arm felt strong and I think the big thing was going out there and trying to pound the zone,” Strasburg said. “Obviously, it’s been a while throwing to hitters and stuff but the biggest thing I noticed was it was very easy for me to go out there. Even in the third inning, my arm felt like it could have gone at least a few more.”

Strasburg came back from Tommy John surgery last September and started five games. He went 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA in 24 innings. Strasburg will be on a 160-inning limit this year, just as Jordan Zimmermann was last season. After pitching the final month of last season, Strasburg said after the game he wasn’t consciously focused on how his arm responded in his first start of the spring.

“I definitely noticed a difference. Just the time off in the off season, my arm just felt a lot stronger,” he said. “It didn’t feel like it was getting tired as fast and it was pretty much a breeze. I was a little erratic at times but I know that’s going to come with the repetitions and just fine-tuning the mechanics.”

The right-hander fell behind a couple of hitters in the first inning. Leadoff man Jordan Schafer worked the count to 3-1 before flying to right and with two outs. Strasburg also fell behind Brian Bogusevic 3-0, but came back to strike him out.

“Stras was too hyped up, amped up,” said manager Davey Johnson. “You could tell from the first pitch he threw he was loaded for bear.”

“I think he’s fine, ” Johnson said. “All winter long just waiting for this, just to be a normal person. He’s an aggressive pitcher and he’s got a lot of talent. I’m sure he had a little adrenaline out there and I don’t know how hard he was throwing, but he was amped.”

Tom Gorzelanny followed Strasburg and got banged around for seven earned runs in just one inning of work.

He allowed a pair of three-run homers. J.D. Martinez belted one with two outs in the third and then in the fourth, the Astros scored five times with Fernando Martinez hitting a three-run shot to left. Gorzelanny also wild-pitched a run home and hit a batter with the bases loaded to score another.

Johnson took the blame for allowing Gorzelanny to get roughed up like that.

“He threw a couple more pitches than I wanted him to throw,” he said. “We had a little problem communicating with the bullpen and getting (Ryan) Mattheus ready. Talking to Gorzo, he said he needed the work but that’s not the kind of work I want to get him.”

“Twelve years and no spring training, I guess I’m rusty,” Johnson joked. “Put that one on me for letting him stay out there and take a beating.”

LaRoche on the mend

As he continues to battle back from shoulder surgery which kept him out most of last year — as well as a sprained ankle suffered during the first week of spring training — first baseman Adam LaRoche is scheduled to get his first start of the spring Wednesday afternoon when the Nats face the St. Louis Cardinals at Space Coast Stadium.

LaRoche twisted his left ankle during baserunning drills and while there was a thought he might have been able to play Sunday against the Astros, Johnson felt like it was best to wait until the middle of the week.

“He is going to be ready to take the wraps off, hopefully, when the Cardinals come here on Wednesday,” Johnson said. “Ideally, I’d like to get him some at-bats in that game and maybe some at-bats in the next game, give him off and then bring him back.”

Johnson was hesitant to play LaRoche this coming Tuesday against the Braves because of his conditioning over the last few days.

“I was surprised because he had been running and yesterday, Lee (trainer Lee Kuntz) didn’t have him running,” he said. “I like to see a guy go through a regular workout, run the bases, take ground balls, hit in BP before, and I usually give him another day and then they play.”

LaRoche still doesn’t seemed concern about his inability to get into a game so far. He has been hitting in the cage and doing some throwing and feels like the ankle is close to being 100 percent.

‘”I just went out and ran for the first time in a few days and made some turns and it feels a lot better,” he said. “I don’t feel it running now like I did. I obviously don’t feel it walking, swinging, throwing — everything’s fine. I think by tomorrow or the next day I will be to the point where I can make some turns on the base paths and hopefully not look back.”

LaRoche is anxious to get on the field and get started as he hopes to be ready when the bell rings on Opening Day.

“Well, it’s been a lot longer than I am used to,” he said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been out there. I was kind of looking forward to today. I knew a week ago I was playing today so it’s a little frustrating to have to wait a few days but all in all, we got plenty of games down here and plenty of time to get ready.”

Pulling into Port

St. Lucie that is, as the Nats take on the Mets for a Monday night game at 6:10 p.m. John Lannan is scheduled to start for the Nationals and he will be opposed by Dillon Gee.

Chien-Ming Wang will throw a minor league game in Viera in the afternoon.

Follow Craig Heist and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)


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