- The Washington Times - Friday, March 19, 2010

VIERA, Fla. | In what figures to be Stephen Strasburg’s last appearance in a Washington Nationals uniform until June, the prized prospect turned in good performance after surrendering two homers early in four innings of work against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Making his third start of the spring, Strasburg allowed solo homers to two of the first three St. Louis batters he faced. After that, he settled down quickly against a Cardinals lineup missing many of their top stars to strike out eight of the 17 batters he faced on the evening, tossing 73 pitches in total — 53 of those being strikes.

Washington went on to beat St. Louis’ split squad 13-5, earning Strasburg his first career Grapefruit League victory.

With the Nationals stating they have a plan for the pitcher’s development — likely meaning the pitcher will develop in the minors before he makes his first regular-season appearance in the majors — Strasburg was sent to minor-league camp Saturday morning, and now appears headed to Double-A Harrisburg to open the season.

MORE COVERAGE: Nationals send Strasburg to minor-league camp

As the near-capacity crowd at Space Coast Stadium was just filing in for the evening contest, the young pitcher most of them wanted to see surrendered his first major-league home run to Cardinals shortstop Tyler Greene to left-center on his first pitch. The shot was the first earned run Strasburg had allowed in three appearances with the Nationals this spring.

However, it didn’t take long for him to allow his second run, as after striking out Jon Jay on six pitches, Strasburg then allowed his second homer of the frame to first baseman Allen Craig.

Following the two solo shots, Strasburg then settled down, and despite a fielding error on Ian Desmond that would have gotten him out of the inning with just the two homers, he recovered to strike out Tyler Henly to end the first.

“You got to go back out there and not let it faze you,” Strasburg told AP after his outing. “Just keep pitching and pitching your game and that’s all I kept doing. I was able to get some outs.”

After the rough first inning, Strasburg settled down in the second, striking out the side, getting catcher Jason LaRue looking, second baseman Ruben Gotay swinging and finally pitcher Kyle McClellan looking to complete the inning.

Strasburg even got his first chance in the batters box with two out and a runner at first, getting contact and hitting it to short with a 1-1 count — and nearly managing to get on base thanks to a throwing error after a throw by Greene was off line but Craig managed to corral the ball and tag out Strasburg.

After getting Greene to ground out to third to open the third, Strasburg yielded a single to Jay. However, he recorded his sixth strikeout by getting Craig looking, and then got out of the inning by causing Nick Stavinoha to ground out.

Strasburg came back in the fourth for his longest outing yet in the Grapefruit League, striking out David Freese to open the inning. He then allowed a Henley single. His most impressive battle of the night was with LaRue, who after going 1-1 to open the at-bat, the catcher then fouled off seven consecutive offerings before Strasburg made him his eighth strikeout victim of the night. Strasburg then ended his outing by getting Gotay to ground out to Adam Dunn at first.

He was replaced in the lineup by pinch-hitter Cristian Guzman in the bottom of the fourth to end his night with two earned runs, and four hits for the night, and left the game with the Nationals leading 3-2.

With the pitch count high for a four-inning outing, Strasburg also told reporters afterwards he wanted to work on inducing more grounders than recording strikeouts.

“My ball’s moving enough to force weak contact,” he told reporters. “My pitch count was a little up. You’re not going to have that many strikeouts every time out.”

On Saturday, the Nationals decided to give Strasburg some more work in the minors before bringing him up for a real taste of the majors, as well as buying the team some team before his arbitration clock starts ticking. Strasburg finishes his Grapefruit League time by allowing the two earned runs, eight hits and 12 strikeouts in nine total innings of work.

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