Strasburg's new plan for 2013 

February, 12, 2013

VIERA, Fla. -- Stephen Strasburg was very relaxed Monday after arriving at the Nationals' camp, after a low-key offseason. He didn't travel much, he said, because when you live in San Diego, there really isn't a whole lot of reason to go elsewhere.

He did make the long trek to Wisconsin this winter, with planes, trains and automobiles, to attend the wedding of teammate Jordan Zimmermann. But Strasburg didn't actually make it to the wedding, because he was wrecked by a bout of food poisoning that drove him to an emergency room in the middle of the night. Strasburg probably wouldn't recommend the white chicken chili near Auburndale, Wis.

He told that story with a smile, answered questions about how he will no longer work with any innings restrictions, and today he will climb on top of a bullpen mound and go back to work. He is ready to face hitters now, he said.

What he wants to work on this spring, he explained, is to develop more consistency with his two-seam fastball and his changeup, because there were days last season when those pitches were flat and he'd have to find a way to work around them. And if he can get more consistency with those pitches, he can probably take his next step of pitching deeper into games. As general manager Mike Rizzo explained, a good working model for Strasburg is Justin Verlander. "Maybe the word is 'conserve,'" Rizzo said.

Verlander will pitch early in games with good velocity -- 93-95 mph -- and get outs efficiently, before gradually ramping up in the middle and later innings. Time and again, we've seen Verlander burying hitters with his best velocity in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. That's where Strasburg wants to get to, and he'll have a chance now that he's not limited.

When Strasburg hands off the ball in the seventh or eighth inning, the ball probably will go to Tyler Clippard or Drew Storen, depending on how manager Davey Johnson arranges his bullpen daily, and Rafael Soriano will work the ninth. At the time that the Nationals worked out a deal with Soriano, Rizzo had pitching coach Steve McCatty call Clippard and Storen to give them a heads up that there would be a new closer in town. Those were shorter calls, very much to the point.

Later, Rizzo called each himself. Clippard was predictably laid back about the whole thing, saying something along the lines of, "Dude, whatever you do is fine with me." The conversation between Rizzo and Storen was more extensive, with the general manager explaining to Storen that the move had nothing to do with Storen's blown lead against the Cardinals in Game 5 of the NLDS, and everything to do with making the team better overall. Their bullpen depth was probably the weakest part of an extremely strong roster, and now, with Soriano, the Washington relief corps has a chance to be outstanding.

Rizzo drafted Storen in the first round, promoted him without regard to his arbitration clock and made sure that the reliever will be well compensated this season, so he spoke from a position of credibility. Storen and Clippard were both among the players who worked out here Monday, in a camp that is already filled with high expectations for what could be possible. This may well be their time.

Strasburg is 100 percent, as James Wagner writes. It feels good to be in this position, Strasburg told Amanda Comak.

The Bourn move

At the time the Cleveland Indians signed Nick Swisher, they had no intention of going after Michael Bourn. In fact, agent Scott Boras tried to engage Cleveland at that time, knowing that the Indians were getting closer to signing Swisher and working to convince them to invest in Bourn rather than Swisher.