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Stephen Strasburg’s Debut Gives Reason To Watch Nats

It’s been nice to see live baseball every morning at 10 a.m. on MLB Network. It’ll be even better three weeks from now, but I’ll take what’s available right now.

Today, Stephen Strasburg’s spring training debut was on the menu. Knowing that nothing substantial would probably happen, I thought I must tune in just in case something like a Tony Saunders scenario were to occur.

Strasburg threw nothing but fastballs in a quick first inning. He overthrew the first couple outside to Austin Jackson, a possible sign of nerves, but who knows. He then got Jackson to ground out on a 2-0 low fastball. Strasburg fell behind Clete Thomas 2-0 as well, including one fastball that I think landed about 10 feet short of home.

OK, so he is nervous. Whatever. That’s natural.

But Thomas grounded out on another low 2-0 fastball. These first two at-bats caused Nats color analyst Rob Dibble to say something to the extent of “When you’ve got the stuff that Stephen Strasburg has, you can fall behind major league hitters and still get them to ground out.”

Of course, being a major league hitter should mean that you have major league experience, of which Jackson has none. Thomas has less than 400 ABs in his two-year career. So let’s pull back the praise just a bit, Rob. Jackson struck out against non-roster invitee Miguel Batista in the third inning. Apparently he has the stuff to get major leaguers who are not major leaguers out, too. Sign him up!

Next into the box, Magglio Ordonez grounded out on the first pitch — another low fastball — to close the Strasburg’s first.

Seven pitches, three groundouts. All fastballs. At this pace, he could have thrown seven innings today.

The man Nyjer Morgan calls “Jesus” ran into a small jam in his second inning. He started unleashing his breaking balls, the best one of the bunch being a 1-1 slurve that buckled Miguel Cabrera. He then struck out Cabrera on a high-and-away fastball. THAT’S getting a major leaguer out.

Carlos Guillen grounded out on the first pitch and then Strasburg gave up a couple of soft singles to Don Kelly and Alex Avila. Now pitching out of the stretch, Strasburg started overthrowing again. He started Brent Dlugach (who is more of a major league experience than Austin Jackson. I’ll stop now.) with three outside fastballs. He fought back to 3-2 and then froze Dlugach with a curveball to end the inning and his first MLB spring outing.

To recap: Strasburg faced eight batters in two innings. Two hits, two strikeouts, four groundouts; 27 pitches, 15 of which were strikes. He reached 98 MPH. He threw mostly fastballs and was shaky with his control on some of them. But his breaking pitches looked good. When you can turn a sober Miguel Cabrera into a statue, you know you’ve done something right.

We got to see Strasburg pitch out of the stretch. We got to see him overcome some frazzled nerves. Most importantly, his March 9 isn’t mimicking the day had by Joe Nathan. Strasburg made it out of this first run-through healthy.

So what does this all mean? Nothing. Have you checked your calendar lately? It’s not even the ides of March yet. As long as Strasburg’s shoulder remains attached to his body, nothing really matters.

Yes, I just made you waste five minutes of your day to read something that results to nothing more than hype. I hope it was as good for you as it was for me.

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