WASHINGTON — If the Washington Nationals hope to compete with the beasts of the National League in 2017, they will need the consistent contributions of Stephen Strasburg.
Over the course of his career, when Strasburg is healthy, he’s among the best arms in baseball. When he’s not, it usually has to do with injury. So looking back over the course of his career, his 2014 season is one to replicate. This meant preparing for 2017 in much the same way.
Powerlifting is out, distance running is back in.
“I did a lot more distance running and then tapered that down into more sprint stuff,” Strasburg told the media. “I was getting up to six, seven miles. For a guy my size, it takes three or four days to recover from it. Once I started to get more into throwing every day, I tapered it down so I did a little bit less – more sprint-type cardio, but on a daily basis.
“[I] really tried to do a lot more of the functional fitness type. It’s nice if you can do heavy weight on the bench, but if you can’t do X number of push-ups or pull-ups, it doesn’t really help you.
“That was kind of the program they had going for me, was really trying to do a lot of the body weight stuff and strengthen that way.”
Early returns are encouraging, especially after Strasburg’s season unraveled in 2016. Rather than going under the knife this offseason, Strasburg elected to rehabilitate the injuries and arrived on Day One of Spring Training ready to go.
“He looked like Stras to me,” said manager Dusty Baker. “That was very, very impressive to me. He told me he was ready and he worked hard this winter. He’s in great shape.”
Strasburg threw all four of his pitches pain-free and with command according to catcher Derek Norris. As MASN Sports’ Pete Kerzel pointed out, that slider will be used significantly less this season, as Strasburg turns back to the fastball, curveball and changeup.
From a mental standpoint, Strasburg also benefitted from a lesson in patience this offseason.
“I kind of catch myself wanting to see results immediately and I think it can be counterproductive when you don’t really look at the big picture,” he explained. “So I have a tendency to want to see my pitches work the way I want them to every time. That’s fine, but it won’t necessarily work for seven months, so you just gotta kind of know when to take it back, and I think that’s something I’ll always struggle with.
“We’ve got a great group of people here with a lot of knowledge and experience that can hopefully keep me from doing things that are counterproductive to staying healthy.”