Tag: Stephen Strasburg

Stephen Strasburg Injury: Updates on Nationals Star’s Elbow and Return

The Washington Nationals have placed pitcher Stephen Strasburg on the 15-day disabled list with right elbow soreness. It is uncertain when he will return to the rotation.

Continue for updates. 

Baker Comments on Strasburg’s Injury

Monday, Aug. 22

Nationals manager Dusty Baker told reporters Strasburg first mentioned his injury Saturday, saying he wanted to pitch through it. “But it’s not hero time yet,” Baker added.

Strasburg Placed on DL

Monday, Aug. 22

The Nationals announced the roster move, noting A.J. Cole was called up in his place. Joel Sherman of the New York Post, citing a source, reported the injury “is not structural” and that the Nationals were being “proactive” to get Strasburg healthy for the stretch run and into the postseason.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today added the Nationals are “cautiously optimistic” Strasburg can return in two weeks.

Strasburg Has Dealt with Arm Issues Throughout Career

Physical setbacks have always been a concern during Strasburg’s career, and his latest injury is no different.

The Nationals starter suffered an upper-back strain earlier in the season, was limited to 23 starts in 2015 and underwent Tommy John surgery in 2010. Washington also shut him down in early September during the 2012 season when it was firmly in the postseason race. The Nationals still won the National League East that year, but they didn’t have Strasburg for the stretch run.

When healthy, he is one of the most effective pitchers in the National League.

He made the All-Star Game in 2012, finishing with a 3.16 ERA and 197 strikeouts in 159.1 innings before being shut down. He also struck out 242 batters in 2014 and tallied 155-plus strikeouts in four straight years entering the 2016 campaign. Strasburg has yet to post a WHIP higher than 1.155 for an entire season in his career.

Thus far, he is 15-4 with a 3.59 ERA in 2016.

The Nationals will rely on Max Scherzer and Gio Gonzalez if Strasburg misses time. Scherzer won the 2013 American League Cy Young Award, and Gonzalez has finished with an ERA below 3.80 in each of the last four years for Washington.

The Nationals also have depth with Tanner Roark, and Yusmeiro Petit has starting experience and made an emergency start for Strasburg earlier this season.

While Washington has enough pieces in its starting rotation to survive this setback, it is a more dangerous contender when Strasburg is healthy.

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Stephen Strasburg’s Loss to the Dodgers Was His 1st Loss Since September 9, 2015

Fact: Stephen Strasburg lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday, his first loss since September 9, 2015 (21 starts).

Bleacher Report will be bringing sports fans the most interesting and engaging Cold Hard Fact of the day, presented by Coors Light.

Source: B/R Insights

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Stephen Strasburg Becomes 5th Pitcher to Start 13-0 in Cy Young Era

Washington Nationals All-Star ace Stephen Strasburg went eight innings during Friday night’s 5-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates, allowing one earned run and just three hits while striking out six to improve to 13-0 on the season.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, Strasburg is the fifth pitcher since 1956 to start a season 13-0 or better. Three of those pitchers went on to win the Cy Young Award the year they accomplished the feat, including his current teammate Max Scherzer, who won the award in 2013 as a member of the Detroit Tigers:

Strasburg is the only player to have hit the 13-0 mark in the National League.

While the individual success is a good omen for Strasburg’s trophy case, it’s also a good omen for the Nationals, as most of the teams those pitchers played for saw some form of success in the fall:

Friday’s outing also lowered Strasburg’s ERA from 2.62 to 2.51, moving him up to sixth-best in the major leagues.

It’s not the only category he’s among the big leagues’ best in, either: 

Strasburg is also getting plenty of help from his offense when he takes the hill, which has made his 13-0 mark somewhat easier to attain. According to ESPN.com, he’s receiving 6.41 runs per start, which is fourth-best in the major leagues.

He’s already two wins away from his career high of 15 victories, though it took him 28 starts to get to that number in 2012, compared to the 17 he’s made in 2016.

If history suggests anything, it’s that Strasburg will have to maintain this kind of excellence deep into October. And that’s something Nationals fans, and probably Strasburg, would like to see even more than an undefeated record in July.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

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Stephen Strasburg’s Father-Son Bond with Tony Gwynn Made Him an MLB Star

SAN DIEGO — The Master looked out at The Pupil. It was autumn, 2006, the first days of fall practice, and the incoming freshman class was finding its way, as ever, maturity not always matching exuberance. So there was work to be done. A lot of work.

What The Master saw as he scanned the horizon and focused on one freshman in particular was not future riches and stardom. Instead, what he noted was baby fat to be melted. Toughness to be instilled. What he saw was a lost ball in tall weeds.

It was a start.

The Pupil looked back at The Master, the view wholly different from the one he had when he was two. Or 12. He now was reporting directly to his boyhood idol. And he was not prepared for this thing called college, or college baseball or maybe even all that much in life. Not yet. Though he didn’t know it. Not quite.

Then came the weight room, the runningso much runningand soon, The Pupil was keeled over, gasping for breath, puking in the ice plant, heaving until he had nothing left to heave. Or give.

But over time, The Pupil would learn that he had far more to give than he ever knew.

The initial lows would yield to incredible highs. As if propelled by rocket fuel, once he launched, he zoomed straight up into the stratosphere. San Diego State closer, then ace. Beijing Olympics. One of the most hotly anticipated No. 1 overall picks in the country, ever.

The frenzy around them exploded into kaleidoscopic colors, and what The Master now began to see was a reflection of himself: an elite, no-nonsense player who hated to lose. One whose shyness made him uncomfortable in the fish-bowl environment of fame. One who eschewed flamboyance for substance and hard work.

As the outside worldmedia, agents, fans, gawkersclamored for its pound of flesh, The Master tapped the brakes, again and again, affording The Pupil a chance to breathe. “An artisan with the bat,” reads The Master’s Hall of Fame plaque in Cooperstown, but what he really was, in addition, was an artisan in humanity.

Today, when Stephen Strasburg speaks in reverential tones of the man who became his “second father,” the late San Diego State University coach and 20-year MLB veteran Tony Gwynn, these are the seeds from which one of the great baseball love stories of our time bloomed.

“It was eye-opening, because I had him so high up on a pedestal at that point,” Strasburg, who grew up in San Diego, tells B/R during an extended conversation last month. “I quickly realized he was one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met.

“He was Coach. That was the thing. It wasn’t like he was showing up every day telling the guys, ‘Wow, I did this and that.’ You could ask him, and he would share some really cool stories.

“But at that point in his life, when I was around him on a daily basis, he was Coach. He made a very big point of developing guys’ characters first, and then hopefully they became better ballplayers on the way as well.”

Soon, The Pupil would outgrow the confines of college. And when he married, The Master, who enjoyed formal occasions about as much as a fastball to the skull, knotted up a tie, took his wife’s hand and had a ball at the wedding.

Five months later, in June of 2010, the man who hated to fly even more than he hated formality boarded an airplane for a cross-country flight to be see the phenom’s MLB debut.

Now, as the All-Star Game returns to San Diego for the first time since 1992, The Pupil laces up his cleats for his second Midsummer Classic. And the tragedy is that The Master, whose legend looms over this game, this beautiful ballpark and this sparkling city, is not here to attend.

“With Muhammad Ali passing and being called ‘The Greatest,’ let me tell you, Tony Gwynn was ‘The Second Greatest,'” Kathleen Swett, Strasburg‘s mother, tells B/R.

“We loved him very much.”

Gwynn, of course, who became synonymous with San Diego during his career, died of cancer on June 16, 2014.

But in so many ways, both big and small, he will be with us at this 2016 All-Star Game.

Especially in the hearts of one particular All-Star and his family.

“Please excuse me if I start sounding like I’m crying a little bit,” Kathleen says over the telephone. “Forgive me for that. It goes way, way, way back to when Stephen was a toddler. He watched a lot of baseball on TV, and he would totally light up whenever Tony would come to bat.

“He’d have birthday parties and people would give him all of the Tony Gwynn gear, all sorts of that stuff.”

There is a picture that was taken at Strasburg‘s second birthday party. In it, he is wearing Tony Gwynn sweatbands, a Padres batting helmet and a toothy grin as wide as the 5.5 hole through which the Hall of Famer punched so many of his 3,141 career hits. Gwynn made that 5.5 hole, as he called it, famous: the opening between shortstop (position No. 6 if you’re keeping score) and third base (5). Thus, 5.5.

From the beginning for Strasburg, it was all about the man known as Mr. Padre.

The first time they met, Stephen was maybe eight or nine. His father had played high school basketball with the varsity basketball coach where Gwynn’s son, Tony Jr., was playing.

“My dad knew they were having a good season, and he knew the coach, so we went up there to a game,” Strasburg says. “We’re watching the game, and I look across and see Coach in the stands with his video recorder, recording his son’s game.

“So I went over there after the game and I asked for him to sign my ticket.”

When he wasn’t swinging a bat, video recorders and autographs were the currency in which Gwynn trafficked at that point in the late 1990s. The pioneer of the game’s video revolution, Gwynn used to lug his own videocassette recorder on road trips and record games from his hotel room television so he could study at-bats. Today, every major league club employs its own video personnel, and every clubhouse is stocked with computers for the players to view clips.

A couple of more years passed. Strasburg, now 10 or 11, was playing on a travel-ball team, and one of his teammates was Brett Bochy, son of the then-Padres (and now San Francisco Giants) manager.

When he was home and free, Bruce Bochy would sometimes visit with the team and offer coaching tips. But what was pure magic was when he would invite the travel squad to visit Qualcomm Stadium, where the Padres played before Petco Park opened. There, the kids were granted access to the raggedy old indoor batting cage that could be reached only by taking an elevator up one floor from the Padres’ clubhouse underneath the stands.

Sometimes, when the elevator door opened in the early afternoons, there was Gwynn, swinging away, all alone.

“We’d come in and we’d hear the crack of the bat and there’s Tony, hitting,” Strasburg says. “We’re all like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is awesome watching him hit.'”

On one lucky day, it got even better.

“He asked if we needed somebody to throw,” Strasburg says. “So he threw batting practice for us for almost an hour.”

Yet even with Gwynn taking over the San Diego State program in 2003 following his 2001 retirement, Strasburg was making other plans in high school.

“I worked really hard in school to get into Stanford,” Strasburg says. “There was a tournament in Nevada I was playing in and one of the Stanford recruiters was supposed to be there.

“I don’t think he showed up, and I had a really good game and Rusty Filter (then San Diego State’s pitching coach) was there and saw me and said, ‘We want to get you on a visit.'”

One of the most effective recruiting tactics SDSU employed at the time was using Gwynn as its closer. Once the recruiting process reached a certain point, if the Aztecs program was serious about a kid, Gwynn often would make a home visit and have dinner with the recruit and his family.

“But at that point, I just got back from Nevada and I was in school so it was like, ‘OK, we’ll just meet you there; we’ll do the visit at State,'” Strasburg says. “That’s where my mom and dad talked with him.”

Conversations and reality have a funny way, sometimes, of moving to places other than their expected destinations.

Strasburg was young for a high school graduate, just 17, and he came from a school that didn’t emphasize conditioning. He had zero experience with weight training.

Plus, there was this taco shop near the school, Estrada’s, and Stephen and his buddies were regulars. Strasburg loved the California burrito: carne asada, french fries, cheese, guacamole and salsa, all wrapped up inside a tortilla.

So you can imagine the shock awakening to college ball. As Strasburg struggled in the fall of 2006, there were serious questions regarding whether he was a keeper. Teammates tagged him “Slothburg.” He became acquainted with the nearby ice plant under stomach-churning circumstances.

As assistant coaches barked and teammates razzed, Coach Gwynn would sidle up to his new freshman pitcher and, in that high-pitched, cheerful voice filled with sunshine and optimism, quietly tease.

“What’s going on? Is this a little too tough for you?”

Talk about a complete college education.

“The high school I went to, you just showed up, played the game and went home,” Strasburg says. “Once I got to SDSU, that first week of conditioning, I could barely get through the stretches or the warm-up. I really, really struggled.

“It got better slowly, but it was a long grind.”

Strasburg can still hear the voice: What’s going on? Is this a little too tough for you?

“I think Coach had a good read on individuals,” Strasburg says. “Who needed a kick in the butt, who didn’t.

“I just needed to be shown the process and how to do it. That was one of the things I really learned from him when I got to college: OK, this is the work you’ve got to do, so now it’s your decision. Go do it.'”

At the semester break, Mark Martinez, the assistant who would be elevated to head coach when tragedy struck seven years later, saw him at a local LA Fitness gym every morning.

“What are you doing here?” Martinez asked, surprised, on that first day.

“The weight room’s closed over Christmas,” Strasburg explained. “I needed a place to work out.”

But here’s the twist: alternating schedules—Martinez worked out early and was finished by 6:30 a.m., and then his wife would come in for her workout. And every night, Coach Martinez’s wife would report that Strasburg was still there working when she’d left.

“At some point during the fall, he made a decision that he was going to be good,” Martinez says. “Nobody else made that decision for him.”

“That’s kind of how it was,” Strasburg says. “I did everything to a T. I wanted to do everything they asked me to do.

“Once I lost 30 pounds, I got a little stronger and my velocity started to come up. I always had a pretty good arm, but there was no process to make it better.”

That spring, about a week before the 2007 season started and with the back end of their bullpen still a work in progress, Gwynn and Martinez were talking following one practice, when in walked Filter.

“We’ve got our closer,” Filter announced.

“Who?” Gwynn asked.

“Stephen Strasburg.”

“No way! I don’t know if he’s ready for that.”

“You think closer, you think dynamic personality,” Martinez says today. “Stephen is very soft-spoken. He’s not very animated.”

Martinez remembers the debate lasting for about 20 minutes. He’s not ready to close! Give him a chance and let’s see! In the end, Gwynn was convinced; Strasburg got the ninth inning. As always, the freshman did his talking on the mound.

“I think what Coach did [showing faith in Strasburg to be the closer as a freshman] developed a trust between Stephen and Tony,” Martinez says. “And by the end of the year, he was getting some starts.”

The winter before Strasburg‘s sophomore season—the one that would help seal his position as the only college player invited to play among professionals on the U.S. Olympic team—Tony Gwynn Jr. stopped by his alma mater while preparing for the next season in Milwaukee’s organization.

“At this point, Stephen hadn’t even gotten on anybody’s radar yet,” says Gwynn Jr., 33, who retired last winter following a 13-year professional career and is doing postgame shows for Los Angeles Dodgers radio. “I was trying to get a head start on seeing live pitching; I think it was around November.

“Generally, I didn’t see live pitching until January, but my dad said, ‘Why don’t you hop in.’ I grab a bat, get in the box and Strassy punched me out on three pitches, real quick. I remember walking back to the bench thinking, ‘Who is this guy?’ As I did, I fish-eyed my dad, like, ‘Really?’ And he was already laughing about it. I knew he knew what was going on.”

Now in shape, Strasburg had gone from barely being able to bench-press 95 pounds and yet still throwing 92 mph to adding extra muscle and even more zip on his fastball. Now, it was creeping into the mid-90s, en route to 100.

His baseball curriculum was taking root, and in so many ways. As a coach, Gwynn was old-school, which meant even when the Aztecs won, there was still a right way and a wrong way to do things.

There was the walk-off win against Brigham Young, in which one of SDSU‘s players watched his game-winning homer just a wee bit too long. It was early in the season, the Aztecs were excited and, in the chaos of the celebratory locker room, Gwynn walked in and told them, “Good win, guys.”

But let’s remember something he added.

“He started to go on this talk about acting like you’ve done it before, respecting the game and winning with humility,” Strasburg says, smiling at the memory. “It wasn’t so much a talk as a shouting session.

“But he got so fired up because it meant so much to him, respecting the game, that he kicked the door to the clubhouse and it left this huge hole in the drywall. It was there for the rest of the year.

“We’re college kids, pretty immature; he could have let us do our thing. But it’s always a teaching moment. Even when we had such a good finish to a game, it’s still important to look big picture and instill some good character.”

Another time, during a game at Texas Christian University during his final year, Strasburg became incensed when a TCU batter singled through the hole near second base. And he seemed to become even angrier when his second baseman made a half-hearted dive in which he didn’t come close to nabbing the bouncer.

The kid who once could barely make it through conditioning drills now was so dominant that he became offended whenever anyone coaxed a base hit off of him.

“Stephen was pissed,” Martinez says. “So our catcher comes out to the mound and says, ‘Stephen, that was a base hit.’ So he got mad at our catcher. Then he walks into the dugout after the inning and Tony walks up and says, ‘You know, that was a base hit. You can’t defend that. Good for you for managing the rest of the inning, but it was a base hit.’

“It took a few minutes for steam to stop coming out of his ears.”

Strasburg‘s catcher in the game, Erik Castro, remembers that well.

“Stephen and Coach Gwynn obviously have something special as far as their talent,” says Castro, who reached the Triple-A level in the Astros organization in 2014 before retiring and remains one of Strasburg‘s closest friends. “Tony was one of the best ever, and Stephen obviously was turning into an elite pitcher in the game.

“Stephen didn’t know how to control his competitiveness. When he was 19, 20, 21 years old, he got fired up about everything. And Tony was teaching him how to be professional about things. On the field, you don’t say this or that to your teammates. That was a clear base hit. Just let that one go. Someone got a hit off of you, Stephen, it’s all right.”

It is one of the last of The Master’s lessons that The Pupil continues trying to, well, master even today.

“That’s something I’ve always struggled with. I don’t like giving up hits,” Strasburg says. “When he said that, it’s like, man, if I had [him] on my shoulder telling me that [during some professional games], I think I would have done better in some games, not letting little hits bother me.

“At the end of the day, it really comes down to what you’re going to do next. It’s funny you bring that up. I probably should have listened a little more. I was a little heated at the time.”

The chaos reached its peak during Strasburg‘s junior—and final—season at SDSU in 2009, following Beijing.

Aztecs home games became such carnivals that the school band and cheerleaders regularly performed, entertaining the standing-room-only crowds when folks got bored gawking at the hordes of professional scouts and media.

Everybody in the country knew he was about to become the nation’s No. 1 pick.

“It was ridiculous,” his mother Kathleen says. “Nuts. Crazy.

“It was this feeding frenzy, and one of the things I was thankful for was Coach Gwynn controlling all that so Stephen could do what he had to do.”

With two decades of MLB experience, eight batting titles, 15 All-Star selections and the Hall of Fame induction in 2007, Gwynn was something of an expert on feeding frenzies.

Quietly, he would pull Stephen aside and serve as a sounding board. They would talk baseball. Family. Friends. School. The future. He would ask about this and suggest that, often telling Strasburg, “This is how we’re going to do it, because I’ve been there and I know.”

“Tony never met with Stephen’s dad and I to say, ‘This is what’s going on,'” Kathleen says. “It was just between Stephen and Tony.

“I felt so blessed. Just to have that caliber of a human being in my son’s life, showing him the way and imparting such wisdom. Stephen still cherishes that time. What better can you have than that?”

They were special moments. And yet, much of what Gwynn was doing at the time was behind the scenes, even away from Strasburg. Making sure scouts spoke with him first. Filtering potential agents through his office before they even got to Strasburg.

“It’s really easy in college baseball when you have a horse, or somebody who’s going to be drafted really high, for the coaching staff to say, ‘This is our ticket, we’re going to ride this guy and hopefully win a lot of games,'” Strasburg says. “But I never had that sense from Coach.

“I was in a bubble, to be honest. It was refreshing because the message they sent to every single player, especially the pitching staff, was that they always reminded me that I was just another donkey.

“I wanted to go out there and be a donkey, just go and be that guy who does his job and gives the ball to the next guy. That’s the culture and mentality they tried to create, and I think they do a good job of that even now.”

The Master made sure The Pupil spoke with the right people, and weeded out the wrong ones. Played defense for him with the media. They would chat after practice. Before class. At the stadium. Before a big game. In the clubhouse. Nothing formal. Just lots and lots of little moments.

“Their personalities were very similar, and I think that’s why they gravitated toward each other,” Martinez says.

“I remember my father saying, ‘He gets it,'” Gwynn Jr. says. “I knew him and my dad were pretty close when my dad started to get irritated when Stephen had to deal with so many agents and media his last year. Stephen wasn’t comfortable.

“It reminded me of myself having to deal with it, and my dad feeling the same way. I knew then that they were pretty tight.”

Sometimes, on the way to school or on the way home from practice, Coach would stop by the office of his longtime agent, John Boggs, and fill him in.

“No question, Tony was very proud of Stephen,” Boggs says. “And I think it was because of the work ethic Stephen demonstrated.

“Tony’s main thing was hard work equals success, and Stephen worked very hard and Tony was very proud.

“‘Boggsy,’ Gwynn would say, ‘this kid is the real deal.'”

To Gwynn, there was no higher praise.

So it became official, this graduation from The Pupil into The Real Deal.

Strasburg hired superagent Scott Boras, was drafted first overall by the Washington Nationals in 2009 and signed for a $7.5 million bonus, part of a then-record-breaking four-year, $15.1 million deal.

One year later, on June 8, 2010, amid another feeding frenzy among media and fans on another coast, he made his major league debut against Pittsburgh. It was one of those few occasions when real life lives up to the hype: Strasburg fanned 14 Pirates in seven innings and came away with a 5-2 win.

Up in a suite at Nationals Park that day, right there with Strasburg‘s family, was Gwynn.

“When he agreed to fly to Washington for Stephen’s major league debut, man, that was telling right there,” Boggs says. “I’ve known Tony a long time, and one thing he hated to do more than anything was fly somewhere.”

“And he did all that for Stephen,” Kathleen says. “Bless his heart.”

“It was awesome,” Strasburg says. “He’s really like a part of the family. … They let him come down to the clubhouse before the game, and he’s on my pass list, and here it is, a Hall of Famer sitting with my family watching my debut.

“My family’s never going to forget that.”

Especially Uncle John. Part of a coterie of family members from Kathleen’s side who live in Virginia, Stephen’s great uncle (Kathleen’s uncle) had the good fortune to sit next to Gwynn in the suite that night.

“My uncle knows baseball, but he’s more familiar with football,” Kathleen says. “Tony was giving my uncle inside detail at every moment, and my uncle was just thrilled. I just wish I had a video of it.

“My uncle still talks about it, and he’s 85 now.”

Flanking Gwynn in the suite along with Uncle John was Brandon Ruddy, a former Aztec and one of Strasburg‘s closest friends.

“I still remember Coach saying, ‘Man, there’s more media here than when I played in the World Series,'” Ruddy says.

Today, there are still occasions when visitors to Stephen and Rachel Strasburg‘s home will check out the framed pictures throughout, come back to one in particular from their Jan. 9, 2010, wedding and exclaim:

“Is that Tony Gwynn?”

“To me, you want those you’re close with and those that you love to be there on such an important day of your life,” Strasburg says. “I mean, he was one of them.”

Says Boggs: “God, if he went to everybody’s wedding that he was invited to, it would have been a full-time job. And again, Tony wasn’t a big fan of celebrations, dinners, that kind of stuff. Even going to Stephen’s debut, that was something really out of the ordinary.

“But if you needed one act, that’s the act that explained what his feelings were about Stephen Strasburg.”

The spirit of Tony Gwynn will permeate this year’s All-Star Game because the spirit of Tony Gwynn permeates San Diego. Without him, there probably would be no Petco Park. Possibly, there would be no Padres.

It was only three months after Strasburg‘s debut, and just eight months after his wedding, when Gwynn, then 50, was diagnosed with cancer of a salivary gland. Shortly afterward, he had lymph nodes and tumors from the gland removed, and his battle started in earnest.

That Strasburg, Boggs and so many others still speak of Gwynn in the present tense is not unusual. Though it has been 25 months now since cancer took him, pictures, highlights, stories and memories throughout town keep him with us on so many days.

Just as Strasburg himself does when he frequently references Gwynn.

“Growing up, my parents got divorced when I was five or six, and I did all the baseball stuff with my dad,” Strasburg says. “And it was kind of like in high school, that’s when it started to become I’m on my own. And when I got to SDSU, that’s when Coach Gwynn was a father figure to all of the guys, grooming us to hopefully win some games on the baseball field, but also do the right things off the baseball field.”

Every so often, one of these “second father” quotes makes its way into the Gwynn family world, and though their ache will never fade away, it is momentarily dulled. Most recently, Strasburg did it again in May, at a news conference announcing his seven-year, $175 million extension with the Nationals.

“It makes me extremely happy,” Gwynn Jr. says. “It stirs up emotion, obviously, because he’s talking in the past tense, which reminds you of the situation we are in.

“But it brings so much happiness to know he had such an impact on life and is appreciated. And appreciated so publicly. I wouldn’t be mad if Stephen didn’t say anything publicly. I know from having conversations with Stephen how much he’s appreciated.

“But the fact that he does it publicly, and again when he signs that extension…how long has he been in the big leagues, seven years? Let’s put it this way: Seven years later, it would be easy for him to forget my father. Yet in one of the biggest moments of his life, other than getting married or the birth of his daughter (Raegan, 2), he still mentions my father’s name. And I appreciate it.

“He’s one of the guys carrying on my father’s legacy.”

There are pieces of Gwynn he carries forward with him today. One was visible last month when Strasburg visited a Washington elementary school library to help launch the D.C. Public Library’s summer reading program.

“I try to be the role model that he was,” Strasburg says. “There’s times where it’s tough to have that kind of engagement with fans because…this guy would sign autographs forever. I don’t think my patience is that good.

“His work ethic, I’ve always tried to think that way, how can I get better? One of the things he said to me was something his dad said to him: “Would you rather be batting .200 and having nobody talk to you, or would you rather be hitting .350 and having everybody talk to you?”

These words continue to roll around in his mind, often when things become difficult. Though the man he still calls “Coach” is no longer around, in some ways, Strasburg still can make the connection.

The last time he saw Gwynn was in the SDSU baseball office, just before Strasburg left for spring training in 2014. Though few knew it at the time, Gwynn was entering his final months.

“It was really hard seeing where he was,” Strasburg says quietly. “I just remember his spirits, he was so upbeat. Physically, you could tell he was really battling with it. But he was saying, ‘Yeah, I’ve got some stuff I’m going through but I just want to get back out there with the guys, back out there with the team.'”

Four months later, an off day in June and two days after Strasburg pitched in St. Louis, was when he got the word that Gwynn had died. The Nationals were at home, and when Strasburg picked up his phone, the jarring suddenness of his friend’s text knocked the wind from him.

“It was like, ‘Oh my God,'” Strasburg says. “It hit me. It hit me hard. I was speechless at the time, and I really don’t know what to say now. I remember I was standing right next to the bed. I think I went down to breakfast, then went back upstairs, looked at my phone and my heart just sank.”

How do you fill the gaps when you lose someone who is irreplaceable?

Sometimes, the best you can do is sign an autograph for one kid, read a book to another and keep firing answers to that long ago question The Master pitched to you: What’s going on? Is this a little too tough for you?

The time they had together, even today, Strasburg finds difficult to put into words. He has the memories and the wisdom, but very few physical items.

“I wish I did,” he says. “But when I played at SDSU, I was a little too nervous and I never asked him for an autograph.”

He has a few pictures, one signed ball from when he was a kid and his travel team visited Qualcomm Stadium, and, oh yes, one Tony Gwynn rookie baseball card.

“Saved up all of my allowance to buy it from this card shop,” Strasburg says. “I think it was 85 bucks at the time. So I saved up a lot of money for it.

“Those are my two big Tony Gwynn things, and they were from my childhood.”

Fitting, because beginning about the time The Pupil left him, The Master kept a piece of Strasburg‘s childhood right there in his own life, too.

It was shortly after Stephen’s final game at SDSU when Kathleen dug out that birthday-party picture, the one with her son rocking the Tony Gwynn sweatbands when he was 2, framed it and gave it to Gwynn.

“I didn’t want to give it to him any sooner because I didn’t want anybody to think I was trying to influence Coach Gwynn,” Kathleen says. “But I gave him that picture in a really neat frame, and he put it right on his desk.”

For years after, whenever someone new walked into his office, he would excitedly point to the frame.

“Guess who that is,” The Master would cackle.

Blank look after blank look would greet him. So he would grin, and then he would practically shriek the answer.

“It’s Strasburg!”


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

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Stephen Strasburg’s Hitless Return Shows He’s Ready for Big 2nd Half

The Washington Nationals‘ Stephen Strasburg carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning Sunday before getting the hook with two outs and 109 pitches under his belt.

So the right-hander didn’t make history in his team’s 12-1 shellacking of the Cincinnati Reds. But he did ease a lot of nerves in the nation’s capital.

First, let’s get this out of the way: The decision to pull Strasburg was a no-brainer, as Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post elucidated:

Manager Dusty Baker has drawn criticism in the past for overworking young pitchers. In this case, he took no chances with Strasburg, who was making his first start since landing on the disabled list with an upper back strain.

That’s what this game was about: getting Strasburg back in action and watching him pitch like the ace he’s been all season.

Mission accomplished.

“You’ve got to weigh the future with the present,” Baker said afterward, per Byron Kerr of MASNSports.com. “You just think we’re going to need him.” 

With his 6.2 hitless, scoreless frames, Strasburg lowered his ERA to 2.71. He ranks among the top 10 in the game in strikeouts (123) and opponents’ batting average (.208). And his 11-0 record puts him in rarefied historical air, per ESPN Stats & Info:

Speaking of Max Scherzer, Strasburg’s rotation mate is having a stellar campaign of his own, with a 9-5 record, 3.30 ERA and MLB-leading 148 strikeouts.

When Strasburg went down, however, there was cause for stomach-churning consternation in D.C. unrelated to presidential politics. 

Yes, at 50-33, the Nationals sit in first place, as they have for much of the year. But with the defending National League champion New York Mets (44-37) and scrappy Miami Marlins (42-39) lurking, losing Strasburg for any significant stretch would have been a debilitating blow. 

Counting Sunday’s gem, the Nats are 14-1 in Strasburg’s starts. Without that dominance, the standings would undoubtedly look different out East.

“It was awesome to see him come off the DL and see him throw like that,” said shortstop Danny Espinosa, who drove in six runs Sunday, per Janes. “He’s a huge part of this team and a huge part of a reason why we win.”

Yes, rookie Lucas Giolito softened the blow of Strasburg’s injury, twirling four scoreless innings in a promising, rain-shortened debut on June 28. 

But the Nationals placed right-hander Joe Ross on the disabled list Sunday with right shoulder inflammation, per MLB.com’s Bill Ladson

So even if Giolito stays up, which seems likely, there would have been a hole in Washington’s rotation.

Instead, it got one of the top pitchers in baseball back on the bump. 

Strasburg’s career has been partly defined by injuries, from his 2010 Tommy John surgery to upper back issues that sidelined him last season. One excellent outing won’t erase all concern. Nats fans will still hold their collective breath every time the 27-year-old stud winces.  

But if Strasburg looks similarly strong in his next outingwhich will likely come in the middle of Washington’s pivotal July 7-10 series against the Mets—he’ll roll into the All-Star break with the doubters choking on his dust.

Last year, Strasburg was transcendent in the second half, posting a 1.90 ERA with an eye-popping 92 strikeouts in 66.1 innings. 

If he can approximate that output, it’ll help push Washington over the postseason finish line and erase the memory of the club’s acrimonious 2015 flameout.

Strasburg has made just one career playoff start, a loss to the San Francisco Giants in the 2014 division series. With his team sitting five games up on New York entering play Monday, he’s got a real chance to bolster that October resume and maybe even carry the Nats to the first championship in franchise history.

A no-hitter Sunday would have been cool; no argument there. But a few more months of healthy, superlative Strasburg could lead to something much cooler.


All statistics current as of July 3 and courtesy of MLB.com and Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Stephen Strasburg Exits with No-Hitter Intact in 7th Inning vs. Reds

The Washington Nationals pulled starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg after 6.2 innings of no-hit ball Sunday against the Cincinnati Reds

Strasburg threw 109 pitches in the outing, striking out five batters and walking four. But the 27-year-old just came off the 15-day disabled list with an upper-back strain, and the Nationals clearly weren’t keen on pushing him too hard in his first start since June 15.  

That made the decision to remove him the right one, as AJ Mass of ESPN.com noted:

Strasburg isn’t the only pitcher to be removed during a no-hitter this year, per ESPN Stats & Info:

With pitcher Joe Ross on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation, the Nationals had room to activate Strasburg on the roster. That likely means promising prospect Lucas Giolito will remain in the rotation, at least for the time being.

But little is more important in Washington than keeping Strasburg healthy. The star pitcher, who signed a seven-year, $175 million contract this year, came into Sunday 10-0 with a 2.90 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 118 strikeouts in 93.0 innings pitched. 

Alongside Max Scherzer, Strasburg gives the Nationals one of the best one-two punches in baseball, while Ross, Tanner Roark and Gio Gonzalez round out a nice rotation. And the Nationals have excellent depth at the position as well, as they can simply call on baseball’s top prospectGiolito, to fill in for Strasburg and Ross as needed. 

But an ace like Strasburg is the difference between the Nationals competing for a World Series this season and potentially missing the postseason altogether. Keeping him healthy will be prioritized above all else, even if a no-hitter is on the line.


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Stephen Strasburg Injury: Updates on Nationals Star’s Back and Return

Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg would not make Monday’s start against the Los Angeles Dodgers because of an upper-back strain, per Mark Zuckerman of MASNSports.com. It is unclear when he’ll return to the mound. 

Continue for updates.

Baker Comments on Strasburg’s Injury

Monday, June 20

“We don’t think it’s serious,” said Nationals manager Dusty Baker, via Zuckerman, who added the “hope” is that Strasburg will make his next start in six days. 

Baker said Strasburg first started suffering from a back strain working out a couple of days ago, per Zuckerman

Nationals Have the Depth to Overcome Possible Strasburg Absence 

Yusmeiro Petit made the emergency start in place of Strasburg.

As for Strasburg, this is another injury for Washington to worry about. The right-hander tied for the National League lead with 34 starts in 2014, but he was limited to 23 last year. What’s more, he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2010.

The 2012 All-Star posted a 3.46 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 2015. In 2014, he struck out 242 batters. He is one of the most effective strikeout pitchers in the majors when healthy. Until last year, he’d also never finished with an ERA above 3.16.

This season, he has been one of the Nationals’ best players with a 2.90 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 118 strikeouts in 93 innings. The result is a 10-0 record through 14 starts.

Washington ace Max Scherzer will have to carry the load atop the rotation until Strasburg returns. Scherzer won the 2013 American League Cy Young Award and posted a 2.79 ERA and 0.92 WHIP last season in his first year with the Nationals.

Washington can also turn to Gio Gonzalez, a veteran southpaw who has been in the league since 2008, and youngsters Joe Ross and Tanner Roark, who have ERAs of 3.13 and 3.14, respectively.

While they give the first-place Nationals depth, the club could use the dominant Strasburg as it hopes to live up to expectations following its midsummer collapse in 2015.

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Stephen Strasburg Injury: Updates on Nationals Star’s Calf and Return

Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg exited Saturday’s game against the Cincinnati Reds after suffering an apparent calf injury, per Joe Kay of the Associated Press.

Continue for updates.

Strasburg Exits in 6th Inning of Matchup with Reds

Saturday, June 4

Nationals manager Dusty Baker said Strasburg left with calf cramping but feels fine now, per James Wagner of the Washington Post.

MASN provided comments from Strasburg after the game:

The 27-year-old hurler entered 2016 with big expectations on his shoulders after the departure of Jordan Zimmermann, and he has produced to the tune of a 9-0 record and a 2.69 ERA through his first 11 starts.

He began the season so impressively, in fact, that the Nats signed him to a seven-year, $175 million contract extension.

Strasburg has always been an elite talent, but injuries and inconsistency have prevented him from establishing himself as one of Major League Baseball’s upper-echelon arms.

Although Strasburg led the National League in starts during the 2014 season with 34, he was limited to just 23 starts in 2015. He previously underwent Tommy John surgery in 2010 as well, so he has a fairly lengthy injury history.

The former All-Star can be dominant when he is healthy and on top of his game, and while he went just 11-7 with a 3.46 ERA last season, his 2.81 FIP, per Baseball-Reference.com, suggests that he was also somewhat unlucky.

Strasburg came into the 2016 campaign with the goal of remaining healthy and being a force deep into the season, according to James Wagner of the Washington Post:

I’m going to continue to work throughout the season. It’s not like you’re working from Day 1. You’re looking to peak in September, October, the second half. It’s like I’ve done it enough times to know that you’re still going to be building throughout the course of the year. As far as getting the normal workload every five days, I feel like I’m ready for that.

The injury bug has bitten Strasburg once again, however, which puts the Nationals in a difficult position if he has to miss some time.

In the event that Strasburg ends up needing a stint on the disabled list, Max Scherzer will bear even more of a burden to pick up the slack. Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark and Joe Ross will also become even more integral as they move up in the rotation.

It is nearly impossible to replace a powerful, swing-and-miss starter like Strasburg, and the fact Washington lost some of its pitching depth during the offseason doesn’t help matters.

The Nationals have a talented, playoff-worthy team, but that could be in jeopardy if Strasburg’s injury turns out to be significant.


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Stephen Strasburg’s 7-Year, $175M Extension Is Calculated Risk for Nationals

The Washington Nationals have decided to count on a guy who’s traditionally been hard to count on.

They could be glad they did.

For now, Stephen Strasburg can count his money. As Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post and Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported before and during Strasburg’s outing against the Detroit Tigers on Monday, the 27-year-old right-hander is getting a contract extension worth $175 million over seven years*.

Oh, right. The asterisk. Heyman noted that Strasburg’s deal includes deferrals, so its value is actually less than $175 million. Further, Buster Olney of ESPN reported that Strasburg could play only three years of his seven-year contract before getting out of it:

So, don’t think of this as a seven-year deal. It’s more like a three-year deal with a four-year player option or a four-year deal with a three-year player option.

Even still, the fact that there’s any kind of deal between the Nationals and Strasburg is an eyebrow-raiser. As a Scott Boras client, he’s among a breed not known for signing extensions before free agency. And in Strasburg’s case, his free agency was less than six months away.

Clearly, Strasburg wasn’t kidding when he told B/R’s Scott Miller during spring training: “The thing I’ve come to learn is anything can happen. Anything can happen a week from now or eight or nine months from now.”

Perhaps all Strasburg needed to see was fair market value, and that’s roughly what he’s gotten.

The going rate for an ace pitcher is at least $25 million per year, and the only ace pitcher cred Strasburg lacks is durability. Otherwise, the former No. 1 pick’s 3.07 ERA since 2010 arguably undersells how good he’s been. According to his FIP and xFIP, Strasburg’s dominance over the last six-plus seasons rivals that of Clayton Kershaw.

And he’s getting better. Strasburg went into Monday’s outing with a 2.08 ERA and 139-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 16 starts dating back to last summer. There was never anything wrong with his control, his curveball or his changeup, but now he’s benefiting from more high fastballs (see before and after at Brooks Baseball) and a new slider that can do this:

If Strasburg were to keep this up all year, odds are he would have found more than seven years and $175 million on the free-agent market. The contracts of David Price and Zack Greinke prove that the best aces can garner more than $30 million per year, and Strasburg would have had the advantage of lackluster competition. Whereas this past winter’s market was loaded with quality pitching, this winter’s market was going to have little of that outside of Strasburg.

But given his history, Strasburg can’t be blamed for getting his while the getting is good. That’s also where the Nationals’ risk creeps into the conversation.

Though Strasburg has generally been good when healthy, “when healthy” is a bigger problem for him than it is for other aces. He’s reached 30 starts only twice and logged over 200 innings only once. Multiple injuries have played a part in that, with his 2010 Tommy John operation being the biggest.

Which leads us to this thought from Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports: “The Nationals are betting as much on future performance as past—a tricky wager seeing as they’re the franchise that has publicly said they fear the health of Tommy John pitchers after their seventh year post-op. Strasburg’s seventh year is next season.”

It’s possible Strasburg’s elbow could break down again. In fact, according to the model developed by Bradley Woodrum, Tim Dierkes and the rest of the MLB Trade Rumors staff, Strasburg began the year with well above average risk for another Tommy John operation.

If another injury doesn’t get Strasburg, declining stuff might. His average fastball velocity of 94.7 mph is very good but down from his 97.3 mph peak in 2010 and 95-96 mph in four of the last five years. And according to research by Bill Petti of FanGraphs, Strasburg is already past the point when starters tend to begin leaking velocity. There’s a high probability his velocity will keep going down.

So though this isn’t technically a free-agent contract, it’s just as risky as your standard free-agent contract. Washington’s $175 million looks like money well spent in the present, but that could change.

But as is usually the case with contemporary contracts, we must also acknowledge that the opt-out (or opt-outs in this case) changes things. If the Nationals are hedging their bet on the possibility they’ll have to pay Strasburg only for the next three seasons, it’s not hard to see what they have in mind.

By keeping Strasburg in town for at least the next three years, Washington will have him for what will likely be the rest of Max Scherzer’s prime. That will ensure it at least has an elite duo atop its rotation. And as arguably the best prospect in the minor leagues right now, flame-throwing right-hander Lucas Giolito could turn that elite duo into an elite trio if he lives up to his billing. The Nationals also control Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark and Joe Ross through 2018.

The 2018 season is also due to be Bryce Harper’s last in Washington. If all the speculation about his inevitable payday—he said “don’t sell me short” when asked about a $400 million deal in February—has the Nationals already resigned to losing him, then loading up to go for World Series glory before he leaves is undeniably their best avenue going forward.

Locking up Strasburg always was going to be the first step forward in that direction. And though the deal does come with a cloud of risk, the Nationals could very well walk away happy.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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Stephen Strasburg, Nationals Agree on New Contract: Latest Details, Reaction

The Washington Nationals and starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg have agreed to a seven-year contract extension, the team confirmed Tuesday.

Nationals owner Theodore N. Lerner spoke about the contract in a statement, via Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post:

Ensuring that Stephen will remain a part of our organization for years to come is a proud moment for our entire family. We are very fond of Stephen and his entire family, and we’ve thought very highly of them since he became such an integral part of our organization almost seven years ago. We’re honored that he feels the same way about the Washington Nationals, and very happy to keep him pitching in the nation’s capital.

Mark Zuckerman of MASN also shared a statement from Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo:

On Monday, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post cited “a person familiar with the situation” when first reporting a “significant long-term extension.”

Jon Heyman of MLB Network confirmed the deal was for seven years and $175 million and provided an update to the situation on his Facebook page: “A press conference has been scheduled for Tuesday regarding Strasburg, sources close to the team said, though nobody is officially confirming the subject of the presser.”

ESPN The Magazine‘s Buster Olney provided further specifics on Strasburg’s massive deal, which includes some flexibility and doesn’t necessarily restrict him to the Nationals for seven years:

Strasburg’s deal includes a “limited” no-trade clause that will begin in 2017, per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. 

Spotrac outlined where Strasburg’s massive payday ranks among his highest-paid contemporaries:

So Washington could’ve broken the bank even more for Strasburg, considering the number of pitchers in baseball who command greater salaries. Overall, though, the contract seems fair for both sides in light of the up-and-down tenure Strasburg has had in the nation’s capital.

It’s been a long and winding road for Strasburg and the Nationals. When healthy, he’s been one of the most dominant pitchers in all of baseball. He’s dealt with numerous injury issues throughout his career, however, which added some uncertainty to the equation as his free agency neared.

The 27-year-old San Diego State product came into 2016 with a 3.09 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and an eye-popping 901 strikeouts in 776.2 innings across 132 career starts. Thus far, he has a 5-0 record, 2.36 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 47 strikeouts in 42 innings this season.

Despite how good Strasburg can be when on the mound, his injury history must be considered a concern.

The right-hander suffered a torn ligament in his pitching elbow in August 2010. He proceeded to miss a vast majority of the 2011 campaign, and the team enforced an innings limit in 2012, which forced him to miss the playoffs.

While he’s managed to avoid any major setbacks since that point, he’s still battled numerous minor injury problems in the following years. That includes two trips to the 15-day disabled list during the 2015 campaign.

His name popped up in the rumor mill over the winter as a potential trade target. Nothing developed on that front, and the sides eventually reached an agreement on a one-year, $10.4 million deal to avoid arbitration in his final season before unrestricted free agency, per Spotrac.

Back in December, Strasburg discussed trying to avoid the outside noise about his future with Todd Dybas of the Washington Times.

“I found with pitching, I pitch better if I don’t stress out as much, if I just focus on the now,” he said.

Ultimately, the Nationals decided Strasburg was too important to the team’s success to let him get away. Trying to fill the void would have been a serious uphill battle, even when taking into account the injury issues he’s dealt with at times.

Those concerns do add a little more risk to the signing, but they’re outweighed by the upside. Strasburg is currently in what are typically a pitcher’s prime seasons, and he should provide Washington with plenty of value moving forward.


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