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Strasburg delivers in Nationals return
Foul weather breaks, allowing phenom to pitch
In front of an announced crowd of 29,092 that in reality couldn’t have been more than half of that with the doomsday weather predictions that proliferated all afternoon, Strasburg needed just 35 pitches to make it through his first three innings. He displayed command of all four of his pitches and lit up the radar gun in truly Strasburg-ian style. His first 99 mph fastball was to third baseman Aaron Miles in the second inning. He swung and missed.
“If the pitch isn’t well-located, they’re still going to hit it,” Strasburg said, unimpressed by his radar gun readings — even with a brand new ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. “I’m really trying to be a pitcher out there. I’m not trying to light up the radar gun all the time.”
Everything worked for Strasburg, who was given a 3-0 lead in the second when Ramos doubled home Chris Marrero and Strasburg brought home Ramos when Ted Lilly threw away the right-hander’s bunt attempt. A single by Desmond and an RBI groundout by Jayson Werth to score Strasburg provided a cushion far more than their ace would probably need even six months from now. In a less-than-ideal situation with rain approaching, Doug Slaten helped that lead slip away and it was downhill for the Nationals from there.
But Tuesday was not truly about the game’s outcome. It was about the return of an ace who’d made his presence on the mound a must-see event only a year ago. If control is the last thing to come for Tommy John survivors, and Strasburg admitted it comes and goes for him, he didn’t show any signs of it on Tuesday.
“He’s a unique, special talent,” said pitching coach Steve McCatty, who, despite requests from his pitcher, did not doff his cap to the adoring fans calling out for “Stephen” as the two walked in from his warmup bullpen session.
“Anything he does does not surprise me. If I say this, it sounds like I’m knocking (Jordan) Zimmermann. I am not. With Zimmermann last year, he went through (some control issues). That is the norm for Tommy John. Ask yourself, is this guy normal?”
After firing his 56th and final pitch, and watching Justin Sellers pop out to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman in foul ground, Strasburg stepped lightly on his way off the mound. He got the handshake from Johnson and the Nationals bullpen began to stir.
The rain that was predicted to deluge Nationals Park didn’t come until much later. Strasburg was back.
“I’m still on a mission here,” he said. “I wanted to get stronger mentally and physically through this process. … It’s a big milestone that I’ve accomplished here. Ever since I went under the knife, that was my goal: to be back pitching in the big leagues in 2011. I’ve been able to do that. Now it’s about getting stronger, staying healthy and being better than ever for 2012.”
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About the Author
Amanda Comak covers the Washington Nationals and comes to The Washington Times from the Cape Cod Times and after stints with MLB.com and the Amsterdam (N.Y.) Recorder. A Massachusetts native and 2008 graduate of Boston University, Amanda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow her on Twitter @acomak.
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