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C.J. Nitkowski: Strasburg’s Struggles ‘A Little Bit Alarming’

by Chris Lingebach
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Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals walks off the mound during a game at Marlins Park on April 15, 2014 in Miami, Florida. All uniformed team members are wearing jersey number 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day (Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals walks off the mound during a game at Marlins Park on April 15, 2014 in Miami, Florida. All uniformed team members are wearing jersey number 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day (Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC) - The early struggles of Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg are beginning to mount after his latest start resulted in an 11-2 loss for Washington, with him giving up 6 earned runs against the Marlins.

Strasburg has just one quality start in four trips to the mound, resulting in a 1-2 record, 6.00 ERA (down from 3.00 in 2013), 17 runs, and a 1.571 WHIP (down from 1.049 in ’13). Despite struggles with velocity and to gain command of his fastball, however, his 14.1 strikeouts per nine innings are an improvement from 9.4 SO/9 last season.

“There’s nothing physical with him. There’s nothing wrong with him,” manager Matt Williams told the Junkies Wednesday morning. “His fastball velocity is there, his other pitches are there, it’s just a question of putting it where he wants to.”

“I really thought this was going to be the year for him,” said former MLB pitcher and current CBS Sports Radio host C.J. Nitkowski, to 106.7 The Fans’ Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier on Wednesday. “I was kind of hoping we were finally going to see the 200+ innings, there was talk of adding a slider — his repertoire was going to get even deeper — and you can kind of look at that as a potential plus, and a potential negative. But I tell you what, I have my concerns.”

“You don’t want to over-think the velocity too much,” he said. “It’s not that far off and it is still early in the season. I think sometimes we have a tendency to do that in April. That has to kind of play out at least until the middle of the season to see if he’s really lost a mile or two, and I don’t know if that’s that significant. But watching that game last night, the breaking ball was just rolling out of his hand. It just didn’t seem like it had that really sharp break that we’re so used to seeing, the one that generates so many swings and misses.

“Now the changeup has been good. The changeup has been really good. But all of a sudden the breaking ball didn’t look very good, and the fastball’s just a little bit more hittable. And again, I don’t know if it’s velocity — I don’t know if he’s lost some life with the injuries that he’s had — it’s difficult to repeat in this game. I don’t care how good your stuff is, it’s difficult to repeat year-to-year.

“And so I think what we’re seeing from him is just a little bit of diminish — I mean so slight in his stuff — and I’m hoping, for his sake, it’s just early season, because to go into Miami — for a team that was on such a bad losing streak — and for him to get hit around as bad as he did, that’s a little bit alarming.”

Nitkowski went on to talk about the Nationals special treatment of Strasburg, and how he hopes it hasn’t created a mental block for the once-phenom pitcher.

Listen to the full interview above.

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