WASHINGTON—A year ago, Stephen Strasburg electrified the baseball world, striking out 14 batters in his major league debut.
He marked the anniversary in mundane fashion, continuing his rehab from Tommy John surgery while finding ways to spend his disproportionate amount of free time.
“I haven’t really thought about it much, to be honest,” Strasburg said. “It was an amazing experience, but it’s kind of foggy right now. I’m really focused on living in the now, and I’ve got a lot of work to do and a lot of work ahead of me. My goal right now is to get back to 100 percent and go out there and fill up the stadium like I did on that day.”
Strasburg struck out the last seven batters he faced, putting a sold-out ballpark into a state of delirium during his seven innings in the Washington Nationals’ 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 8, 2010.
He was 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA in 12 starts before his right elbow gave out. He had ligament replacement surgery on Sept. 3 and is working his way back at the Nationals’ spring training complex in Viera, Fla.
“A lot of it’s mental,” he said on a conference call with reporters. “When you first start throwing, you’ve kind of got to realize that everything’s good inside, and you just need to let it happen. And it’s just trying to stay sane down there in Florida when you’re pretty much doing the same thing every day.”
Strasburg reached a major milestone when he began throwing off a mound on May 23. He now does three bullpen sessions per week, throwing 30 to 40 fastballs. There’s no radar gun, and he expects to start throwing breaking balls soon.
“They want me to throw it nice and easy and fluid and maintain proper mechanics,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing now, is working on getting the timing back and just getting the mechanics down.”
The recovery time for Strasburg’s injury is typically 12 to 18 months. He is expected to get some rehab starts in the minors later this year, and there’s a chance he could make a start for the Nationals in the season’s final weeks.
The 22-year-old right-hander said he passes the time by seeing “pretty much all the movies that are out there.” He also plays golf and has taken up fishing, both saltwater and freshwater. His biggest catch so far is a 7-pound bass, and he wants to give deep sea fishing a try.
As for the events of 365 days ago, Strasburg is short on details. He remembers soaking in the crowd before the game, the walk from the bullpen, the shaving cream pie-in-the-face he received after it was over, and not much else.
“I don’t really remember how I pitched certain guys,” he said. “As far everything that went on during the game, that was all a blur.”