Hello from Viera, Fla! Never thought I’d be blogging from here in late August, but these are special circumstances. Stephen Strasburg participated in his first workout as a member of the Washington Nationals organization this morning. And let me tell you, it was quite a workout.
Well, not really. It lasted all of an hour, and it involved no 100 mph fastballs, no sharp-breaking sliders and nothing even coming close to resembling a game-like condition. Basically, Strasburg played catch and learned how to cover first base and field bunts. Yep, that’s really all he did. Oh, and he stuck around to watch the Gulf Coast Nationals play the Gulf Coast Mets in exciting rookie-league action.
This may have been mundane to the extreme, but it didn’t stop four reporters (including yours truly), two photographers and about two dozen autograph-seekers from invading the festivities. Strasburg was clearly fazed and uncomfortable with all the attention.
“I thought I’d get a little peace out here on the field, but you guys follow me everywhere,” he said later inside the lobby of the Nationals’ minor-league complex, his head down, not even wanting to look any of us in the eyes. “I guess it just goes with the territory. It’s something I’m going to have to learn to deal with. But it’s good to be out here and throwing a baseball again.”
(At this point, I’m saying to myself: If he thinks he’s getting a lot of attention here, wait til he’s actually in the major leagues. This is nothing.)
As for what Strasburg actually did on the field, here’s a quick rundown of the morning’s activities…
7:40 a.m. — Arrives at the Nationals’ minor-league complex adjacent to Space Coast Stadium, where several autograph-seekers are already stationed. He signs for them.
9:30 a.m. — Emerges with the rest of the GCL team from the clubhouse to stretch in the shaded batting tunnels. They all wear gray T-shirts that read “Washington Nationals Equipment,” blue gym shorts and blue curly “W” hats.
9:37 a.m. — Walks to the practice fields as more fans swarm him for autographs. “I can’t now,” he tells them. “I gotta go to work.”
9:43 a.m. — As the rest of the pitchers split into pairs to begin throwing, Strasburg looks around for a partner and can’t find any. He finally is joined by Mark Grater, the GCL pitching coach. The two start throwing from 10 feet away.
9:48 a.m. — Moving back to 45 feet now, with roving pitching coordinator Spin Williams at his side, Strasburg starts mimicking his delivery from the stretch, putting a bit more oomph on the ball. It’s still hardly close to full velocity, though.
9:52 a.m. — Throws from 90 feet.
9:57 a.m. — The entire pitching staff takes a break from the blistering hot sun, sitting on the dugout bench. The coaching staff has Strasburg introduce himself to everyone. “Hi, I’m Stephen. I’m from San Diego,” he says sheepishly. Other players (who make about $15.095 million less than Strasburg) think to themselves: “Yeah, we know who you are.”
10:00 a.m. — While everyone else works out on Field 1, Strasburg and Williams move over to Field 4 for individual drills. Williams starts off by showing him how to properly cover first base on a grounder to the right side of the infield.
10:10 a.m. — They move on to fielding comebackers and bunts.
10:15 a.m. — How to Throw the Ball to Second Base without Getting your Shortstop Killed.
10:18 a.m. — Strasburg, drenched in sweat, returns to Field 1 and takes a seat in the dugout to watch the rest of the guys finish up infield practice.
10:26 a.m. — Walks off field and heads back to the clubhouse for interviews and lunch.
Thrilling stuff, huh?
So what happens from here? Well, Strasburg’s time in Viera will actually be brief. The GCL season ends this week, so he’s going to fly up to Washington and work out with the big league club starting Friday. He’ll stick around through the homestand and continue with the team for its Sept. 11-13 series at Florida. Then he’ll return to Viera for the fall instructional league, at which point he’ll be close to ready to start actually pitching. He’ll pitch in some simulated games, then pitch in actual games, working his up from three innings to four innings to five innings. Come Oct. 13 or so, he’ll head west to the Arizona Fall League, where he’ll join Drew Storen, Chris Marrero, Derek Norris and Danny Espinosa on the Phoenix Desert Dogs. At this point, he’ll be good to go five innings or 80 pitches, a pace he’ll remain on through the Fall League schedule into November.
So there you have it. I’ll have plenty more color from this morning’s workout in tomorrow’s paper, so be sure to check that out.