Craig Heist, wtop.com
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – Stephen Strasburg made his first start of the spring and gave up two runs on three hits over two innings of work including a home run as the Mets beat the Nationals 5-3.
Strasburg’s trouble came in the first inning as he gave up a broken-bat single to Kirk Nieuwehuis and then a two-run homer on a 3-2 pitch to shortstop Ruben Tejada. Strasburg then set the Mets down in order in the second inning.
The big, tall, right-hander threw 42 pitches, 24 for strikes and admitted to being just a little amped up in his first start.
“It felt pretty good,” Strasburg said. “I was glad I was able to make an adjustment after a little bit of a debacle in the first inning but it seems like that’s what happens for me every Spring Training. It’s going to take a little while for me to feel a little more comfortable out there and I was just glad I was able to get back feeling right in the second inning.”
Strasburg is coming off a 15-win season but he was shut down after his start against the Marlins Sept. 7 after reaching his innings limit, throwing 159.1. He knows there are no limitations on his this season and being able to harness some of his emotions early on in games is a work in progress.
“For me, it’s always been the first start,” he said. “Whether it’s the first start of the college season which is the first time to face another team or just spring training. As it gets closer to opening day and you get more comfortable out there and then I have a better idea of how I can harness that and use it to my advantage instead of being so sped-up out there and out of control.”
“What happened out there today is pretty much what happens every time, it’s the inning and I’m just really geeked-up and I have a tough time finding the strike zone and usually I settle down after that,” Strasburg said.
Nationals catcher Chris Snyder wasn’t 2-for-2 with a two homer as part of a three-run Nats second inning, which gave them a 3-2 lead at the time.
Snyder was catching Strasburg and ironically enough hit a homer off Strasburg early last spring. “Yea, we were laughing a little bit about that in the dugout,” Snyder said. “He said he remembers giving up a homer in his first outing last time. But it was me that hit it.”
Snyder likes the fact his day at the plate was a good one but he is keeping it in perspective after the first game.
“It feels good,” he said. “You go up there right now and you’re just trying to put a good swing on the ball and barrel it up. Results aside, it was a good day.”
When it comes to Strasburg, Snyder was impressed despite his struggles in the first inning.
“He’s got good stuff,” Snyder said with a smile. “It’s hard, two-seamer has good run to it and the curve ball and change-up are both put-away pitches so, like I said, once he gets past this one and everything slows down for him a bit, it will be just another outing for him and get his work in and prepare for the season.”
Before the game, Nationals manager Davey Johnson responded to a report by CBSsports.com that claims then-closer drew Storen was dealing with muscle spasm during the last three games of the Cardinals NLDS series. That might have contributed to the Nats blowing a two-run lead and losing game five of the series 9-7, which cost the team a trip to the NLCS.
Ask what he recalls about Storen’s performance in game five, Johnson downplayed the report.
“The only thing I recall is he didn’t throw many strikes,” Johnson said. “I attribute that to trying to be too fine, and Gio (Gonzalez) had the same problem, trying to be a little too fine, wasn’t very pitch efficient and that’s a lack of experience.”
“I’m sure it’s not the first time he’s pitched with some back spasms. I’m not worried about it. He’s a great, young pitcher. He’s had one conversation and I’m waiting for him to have it with me, he wants to pitch early in some games. But we haven’t discussed any physical problems.”
So far, Storen has thrown the ball well during the spring and Johnson said his players have let him know that. The skipper also said it is not uncommon for players to be playing through minor aches and pains at that time of the year.
“Guys are used to having some nagging things going on but I don’t think anyone was overly tired. Again, I attribute it more to a little inexperience situation, trying to do too much. That comes with lack of experience but I thought, by-and- large, guys handled it well in the pennant race, and that’s a great experience and we just had a few little glitches in the post season.”
Reel in the Fish
The Nationals play their first home game of the Grapefruit League when they welcome the Miami Marlins to Space Coast Stadium Sunday. Jordan Zimmermann will pitch for the Nats while the Marlins send out Henderson Alvarez. Game time is at 1:05 p.m.