WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Stephen Strasburg may emulate closers and pitch only from the stretch this season.
Strasburg avoided a windup for all 23 of his pitches in a 2-1, 10-ininng loss by a Washington split squad to St. Louis on Friday, his first appearance of spring training.
“I’m not trying to reinvent myself, but just trying to simplify things as much as I can and be able to repeat my mechanics,” Strasburg said. “I feel like as I’ve gotten older, for whatever reason, the windup’s just been an issue as far as getting that right feeling of staying on the mound, not drifting too much toward first- or third-base side on my leg kick, and sticking the landing a little bit better.”
Strasburg came up with the idea after watching Texas’ Yu Darvish and Cleveland’s Carlos Carrasco. He approached pitching coach Mike Maddux with the idea at the start of spring training.
“If you can keep and repeat your arm slot, theoretically it’s supposed to put less stress on your arm,” Strasburg said.
He didn’t rule out a return to the windup.
“I feel like I’ve always been able to maintain my stuff out of the stretch even when I would just slide step exclusively,” Strasburg said.
On a gloomy afternoon with a 20-mph wind, Strasburg retired the side in order on 10 pitches in the first, striking out Tommy Pham swinging and Randal Grichuk looking.
Jhonny Peralta managed a one-out line-drive single in the second, but Strasburg promptly induced a one-hop comebacker from Jose Martinez that turned into an inning-ending double play.
“I didn’t think was a big deal, really,” Washington manager Dusty Baker said of Strasburg’s stretch. “As long as he feels comfortable, and as long as he was throwing strikes — it looked like it didn’t change his velocity, and his location was actually better.”
Strasburg threw 16 strikes.
“I pounded the strike zone,” he said. “That’s what I wanted to go out there and do.”
The 28-year-old right-hander has managed to make at least 30 starts only twice in his seven major league seasons, and his 15 wins last year matched his big league best.
Strasburg won his first 13 decisions last year, but a partially torn pronator tendon in his forearm caused his seventh trip to the disabled list and limited him to 24 starts.
“We just want him healthy, because had he not gotten hurt, we might be talking about him as the Cy Young instead of (Max) Scherzer, or one-two in the voting or something,” Baker said. “Yeah, we definitely need him.”
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