The Washington Times - March 11, 2013, 05:25PM

VIERA, Fla. — Stephen Strasburg knows the secret’s out. His delivery out of the stretch is not slow, rarely is it more than a second. But in 2012 it was also rarely different. Teams timed him. They ran on him. 

Strasburg allowed 14 stolen bases in 2012, and he came to camp this spring ready to change the way he set up in the stretch.

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“I had a tough time holding runners,” Strasburg said after his fourth start of the spring, a 5 1/3-inning outing in which he struck out five and walked two but faced just one batter over the minimum until a rocky sixth inning — when he was forced to pitch out of the stretch.

“I’ve kind of got them in-between what I was working on and what I’ve done in the past,” Strasburg said, attributing a good deal of his sixth-inning issue to working out the kinks in his stretch delivery. “It’s just about being comfortable out there and just getting the right feeling.

“I think, early on (in Monday’s game), I had the right feeling and then it started to go away and I was missing more of my spots, left and right, and not throwing enough strikes.”

Getting it to be more consistent is simply a matter of repetition, in the bullpen as well as in games, and Strasburg expressed confidence that that would come.

Ultimately the goal is to be consistent enough that he can be inconsistent with his times to the plate and still feel comfortable.

“It’s just trust and taking what you’re doing, warming up in the bullpen out there, into the game,” Strasburg said. “My initial reaction is to go back to what I’ve always done, and that’s to be close to a second to home plate. And whenever I feel myself speed up, my arm tries to compensate for that.

“Typically either I’m too quick, my lower half, and it causes the ball to be elevated. Or I try to play catch up with my arm and I usually throw it in the ground. So it’s just a fine line, but I know when it’s feeling right, it’s there. It’s just trying to keep working on it and trust it out there.”

The Nationals are not that big, as a team, on focusing on runners. Manager Davey Johnson prefers his stellar starting staff keep their attention on the batter at the plate instead of the runner on base, but they did put an added emphasis on their pitchers varying their times to the plate this spring.