Strasburg following Halladay's formula
Stephen Strasburg will pitch in a game for the first time in about a year on Sunday, when he is scheduled to throw either two innings or 35 pitches, whichever comes first. And Strasburg will be a very different pitcher.
Maybe the alterations were inevitable, the result of a young pitcher experiencing a major injury. Maybe they happened, at least partly, because of the conversations he had with Roy Halladay and Albert Pujols. But as Strasburg comes back, Washington general manager Mike Rizzo explained on Thursday, he has made changes.
A message that he got from both Halladay and Pujols was that he needed to attack his rehab process. "Fix every other part of his body," Rizzo said. "He changed his whole body from head to toe, and concentrated on core strength and upper body strength."
And he has changed his repertoire. During Strasburg's brief window of professional baseball last summer, about 95 percent of the fastballs he threw were four-seamers -- fastballs in the range of 97-100 mph, hard but with comparatively little movement. At-bats against Strasburg tended to be longer -- 3.91 pitches per plate appearance. In the aftermath of his reconstructive elbow surgery, Strasburg has focused on throwing a two-seam fastball -- a pitch with a lot more lateral movement. "He's incorporating that pitch more," Rizzo said. "He has more of a pitching-to-contact approach -- get early contact, and early outs [in the at-bats]."
It's an adjustment similar to what Jordan Zimmermann made as he came back from elbow surgery, a change that has worked well for Zimmermann, who has a 3.12 ERA in 21 starts this season.
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