Ready to go from season's start to finish.
Ready to throw as many pitches as it takes and to stay on the mound as long as possible, including into the eighth and ninth inning, something he's never done in the majors.
It all begins Monday, when All-Star ace Strasburg starts the season opener for the defending NL East champion Washington Nationals against a Miami Marlins club that traded away most of its best players, cut its payroll by more than half, starts with seven players on the disabled list and has a rookie manager in Mike Redmond ."It's going to be a good test for me, obviously," Strasburg said about the chance to see what his prized - and surgically repaired - right arm can do without any limits imposed by the Nationals."I haven't gone over seven innings yet in my career," the 24-year-old Strasburg added. "I know in the past, when I've been allowed to do that, I feel like my game's gotten better later on in the game. The hitters change their approach later in the game. It's going to be interesting to see how the game changes in the later innings when you're out there, because I still haven't experienced that yet."
Not since college, anyway.
In 13 starts at San Diego State that lasted more than seven innings, Strasburg was 13-0 with a 0.74 ERA, according to STATS LLC.
He's been allowed to go as long as seven innings - and never more than that - a total of seven times with the Nationals, and owns a 4-0 record and 1.29 ERA in those games. The righty never pitched more than seven innings in the minors."Last year, I was a little quicker with the hook, because I was trying to add some games at the end. I don't feel under the gun to do that," said Davey Johnson, the NL Manager of the Year who says he'll retire after 2013. "I'll go with what I think I can get out of him and not overburden him."
Overall, Strasburg is 21-10 with a 2.94 ERA in 45 career starts in the majors since his electrifying debut. He went 15-6 with a 3.16 ERA and 197 strikeouts over 159 1-3 innings last season before being shut down because the Nationals decided he'd thrown enough for a guy who had reconstructive elbow surgery in September 2010."They're just going to let him be now. He's going to go out there and compete, have some fun, go out to the max, do it the way he's supposed to do it," said teammate Gio Gonzalez , who finished third in NL Cy Young Award voting in 2012. "Last year, on an innings and pitch limit, stuff like that, he still managed to get us 15 wins. So if you give that guy another month or so, or even more in the postseason, he's going to definitely get us where we need to be and hopefully keep us at the top of the division."
While the Nationals won a majors-high 98 games last season and are touted by many - including their own manager, Davey Johnson - as a World Series favorite, the Marlins are widely expected to repeat last year's last-place finish in the NL East.
Redmond, a 41-year-old former backup catcher, replaces the fired Ozzie Guillen in the dugout and needs to figure out how to coax wins out of a roster featuring 23-year-old slugger Giancarlo Stanton and little else in the way of proven players.
Notes: Strasburg (2009) and LF Bryce Harper (2010) will be only the second pair of No. 1 overall draft picks in baseball's June amateur draft to start opening day together for the team that chose them, STATS LLC said. The other such duo? Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr. with the Seattle Mariners . ... Top Marlins pitching prospect Jose Fernandez surprisingly was added to the team's roster Sunday. He is expected to make his major league debut April 7 by starting at the New York Mets . RHPs Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez were put on the 15-day DL. ... RHP Ricky Nolasco will start against Strasburg on Monday. ... After Tuesday's scheduled day off, the starting pitchers for Game 2 on Wednesday: Washington LHP Gonzalez against Miami RHP Kevin Slowey . Game 3 on Thursday: Washington RHP Jordan Zimmermann against Miami LHP Wade LeBlanc .
AP freelance writers Charles McCarthy and Chuck King in Jupiter, Fla., contributed to this report.
Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich
|March 31, 2013||Alfredo Silverio||60-Day DL||Sprained right elbow|
|March 31, 2013||Logan Morrison||60-Day DL||Recovery from right knee sirgery|
|March 31, 2013||Jose Ceda||60-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|March 27, 2013||Henderson Alvarez||15-Day DL||Mild right shoulder inflammation|
|March 24, 2013||Nathan Eovaldi||15-Day DL||Mild right shoulder inflammation|
|March 22, 2013||Joe Mahoney||15-Day DL||Intercostal strain|
|March 22, 2013||Christian Garcia||15-Day DL||Strained right forearm tendon|
WASHINGTON (AP) -- All it took was two at-bats on his first opening day in the majors for Bryce Harper to hit two homers - and hear some "M-V-P!" chants.
The Washington Nationals ' other recent No. 1 overall draft pick, Stephen Strasburg , did his part, too, getting 19 consecutive outs at one stretch of his seven scoreless innings.
Yes, for the NL East champion Nationals - and their fans who lived through some tough times not that long ago - the present and future could hardly have looked brighter in a 2-0 victory over the Miami Marlins on Monday, Game 1 of a season lame-duck manager Davey Johnson declared months ago should be defined as "World Series or bust."
"You couldn't draw it up any better," Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche said. "And to have the two youngsters go out, do what they did? ... Let Harper and Stras go to work. They didn't need us."
Harper, the 20-year-old left fielder coming off NL Rookie of the Year honors, hit solo shots over the out-of-town scoreboard in right-center field off Ricky Nolasco in the first and fourth innings. He sprinted around the bases both times, and after his second trip, he climbed back out of the dugout for a curtain call, pumping his right fist.
"You just shake your head in amazement. You don't see that too often from anybody, period. But to see him as a 20-year-old? He's just writing a book right now," new Nationals center fielder Denard Span said. "And he does it so calm, too."
It was Harper's first taste of a season's start in the big leagues; he began last year in the minors before getting called up later in April.
"Pretty special moment," Harper said. "If I was 0 for 4, or 4 for 4, it wouldn't have mattered to me. Just going out there having some fun on opening day for the first time."
He's nothing if not exuberant, and Johnson joked afterward that Harper's dugout high-fives after homer No. 1 really hurt some palms.
"I'm glad he cut it down on the second one," Johnson said, smiling. "I was still stinging from the first one. I think a lot of people were."
For the 24-year-old Strasburg (1-0), this marked the start of what should be his first full season in the majors, with zero pitch or inning limits. Shut down before the stretch run in September in 2012, he was dominant against a trade-depleted Marlins lineup that features Giancarlo Stanton and little else.
The right-hander went seven innings, matching his career high, allowing three hits.
Asked if he could have pitched longer, Strasburg said: "If it wasn't opening day and the first start of the year, it would have been a different story."
Pitching to contact more than in the past, Strasburg had three strikeouts, zero walks - and needed only 80 pitches.
"I looked up in the sixth inning and he had, like, 65 pitches. I was like, `Wow.' He has come a long way. Early on in his career, you look up in the sixth inning, and he's close to 100 pitches," teammate Ian Desmond said. "If he wants to be the workhorse that he is, he's going to have to pitch more games like this."
Harper and Strasburg are only the second pair of top picks in baseball's June amateur draft to start an opening-day game for the team that chose them, and the 100-loss seasons in 2008 and 2009 that gave Washington the right to those selections seem quite distant nowadays.
"It's amazing how far this club's gone since I was playing against `em years ago and we'd come into Washington and it was awful," LaRoche said. "It was a bad ballpark. It was a bad club."
Before the game, the Nationals celebrated their 98-win 2012 by unveiling a sign atop the outfield scoreboard that proclaims them "NL East Division Champions." A regular-season Nationals Park-record crowd of 45,274 was rowdy all afternoon.
"They really were loud and crazy," Harper said. "Hopefully they're going to be like that all year."
They gave Harper a standing ovation in the sixth inning before his third at-bat against Nolasco (0-1). Ever unpredictable, Harper squared up to bunt, taking a ball, and wound up with a flyout to left.
He hit a curveball for his first homer, a slider for his second.
"Didn't make the best pitches to him, and he didn't miss `em. That's what hitters do," said Nolasco, who gave up three hits in six innings.
Juan Pierre led off the game by singling to center off Strasburg, and that was all the Marlins could muster until the seventh. That's when Stanton - who else, on a team with a payroll under $45 million? - doubled to left, ending the streak of 19 plate appearances, 19 outs for Miami.
Placido Polanco followed with an infield single, putting runners on the corners. The next batter, Rob Brantly , hit a fly to Harper in left. Harper threw home, but Stanton didn't go. Instead, Polanco strayed off first base, and wound up getting caught in a rundown. Eventually, Stanton did try to score, but he was thrown out for an odd-as-can-be double play officially scored 7-2-3-4-2.
"He just got caught in no man's land there. That happens," Marlins rookie manager Mike Redmond said. "We gave them an extra out there."
With some sprinkles falling, Johnson turned to his bullpen, considered a strength of the team last year until blowing a two-run lead in the ninth inning against the Cardinals in Game 5. Tyler Clippard threw the eighth Monday, and closer Rafael Soriano , a free agent from the Yankees, provided a perfect ninth, striking out Stanton to end it.
Soriano celebrated by untucking his jersey, drawing roars from the spectators eager to see that over and over again in 2013.
"The way that it's changed in a quick five or six years, the outlook for this team," third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said, "it's exciting for all of us."
NOTES: The biggest crowd in Nationals Park history was the 45,966 for the final playoff game against St. Louis in October. ... In Harper's fourth at-bat, Marlins 1B Casey Kotchman leaned over a dugout railing to make a nice catch of a foul pop.
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