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Stephen Strasburg is not trying to reinvent himself, but he is simplifying things

Stephen Strasburg is not trying to reinvent himself, but he is simplifying things

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Stephen Strasburg may emulate closers and pitch only from the stretch this season.

Strasburg avoided a windup for all 23 of his pitches in a 2-1, 10-ininng loss by a Washington split squad to St. Louis on Friday, his first appearance of spring training.

"I'm not trying to reinvent myself, but just trying to simplify things as much as I can and be able to repeat my mechanics," Strasburg said. "I feel like as I've gotten older, for whatever reason, the windup's just been an issue as far as getting that right feeling of staying on the mound, not drifting too much toward first- or third-base side on my leg kick, and sticking the landing a little bit better."

Strasburg came up with the idea after watching Texas' Yu Darvish and Cleveland's Carlos Carrasco. He approached pitching coach Mike Maddux with the idea at the start of spring training.

"If you can keep and repeat your arm slot, theoretically it's supposed to put less stress on your arm," Strasburg said.

He didn't rule out a return to the windup.

"I feel like I've always been able to maintain my stuff out of the stretch even when I would just slide step exclusively," Strasburg said.

On a gloomy afternoon with a 20 mph wind, Strasburg retired the side in order on 10 pitches in the first, striking out Tommy Pham swinging and Randal Grichuk looking.

Johnny Peralta managed a one-out line-drive single in the second, but Strasburg promptly induced a one-hop comebacker from Jose Martinez that turned into an inning-ending double play.

"I didn't think was a big deal, really," Washington manager Dusty Baker said of Strasburg's stretch. "As long as he feels comfortable, and as long as he was throwing strikes -- it looked like it didn't change his velocity, and his location was actually better."

Strasburg threw 16 strikes.

"I pounded the strike zone," he said. "That's what I wanted to go out there and do."

The 28-year-old right-hander has managed to make at least 30 starts only twice in his seven major league seasons, and his 15 wins last year matched his big league best.

Strasburg won his first 13 decisions last year, but a partially torn pronator tendon in his forearm caused his seventh trip to the disabled list and limited him to 24 starts.

"We just want him healthy, because had he not gotten hurt, we might be talking about him as the Cy Young instead of (Max) Scherzer, or one-two in the voting or something," Baker said. "Yeah, we definitely need him."

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Mike Rizzo details the rehabilitation process for Bryce Harper to return for Nationals

Mike Rizzo details the rehabilitation process for Bryce Harper to return for Nationals

When Bryce Harper went down Saturday night during the Nationals' game against the San Francisco Giants, everyone in D.C. stopped breathing for a moment. This was true even for Nats GM Mike Rizzo.

"We've all felt it," Rizzo said. "You get that little pit in your stomach and it's the same feeling I had when [Wilson] Ramos went out."

RELATED: HOW JUDGE COULD HELP NATS KEEP HARPER IN WASHINGTON

The Nats' star right fielder was running out a ground ball to first base when his left leg hit a slippery base, causing his knee to hyperextend. Harper immediately went down and grabbed his knee in agony. He eventually had to be helped off the field.

The team has been plagued with injuries this season, from the bullpen to outfielders.

After the initial shock of seeing one of his best players go down with what could have been a season-ending injury, Rizzo told the Sports Junkies he went in 'GM mode.'

"You immediately go to GM mode. We immediately called our farm director, Doug Harris, and made arrangements to get Michael Taylor on a plane. Pull him out of the game in double A, get him on a plane and bring him here because we knew that we needed a player that next day. You know, you gotta change gears quick."

"Then I went down to see Harp in the clubhouse. When I saw him walking up the stairs from the dugout to the clubhouse, I was a little bit relieved. You never know with those injuries. Until you get the MRIs, until you see maybe a day or two later what transpired in there, you have to be cautiously optimistic, I guess that it wasn't an [Adam] Eaton type of thing where you knew immediately that he was gone for the season."

While everyone was waiting to see the severity of Harper's injury, Mike Rizzo and his team were making a game plan.

"You go into your evaluation mode. You look at the depth of your roster. What's next? You get the cabinet together, we were all in the GM box watching the game, so we were all together and kind of put our heads together to try to come up with a plan.

"If it's a light injury, if it's a year-ending injury, what do we do? What are the plans? And you know, you put plans together. If I'm not mistaken it was like the first inning or second inning or something like that. It was early in the game, so we had three hours to lament over it and think about what we're trying to do and put a game plan together kind of on the fly. We literally had Michael Taylor flying into D.C. later that evening so we kind of had to turn things around pretty quickly."

Now that the GM knows Harper's injury is a significant bone bruise, what steps does the team take to get him back on the diamond as soon as possible?

"If I had a time frame for you, I would give it to you. But there's no sense of putting on a time frame because the injury, the bone bruise, has to heal before he can do any type of rehab, stimulated rehab, baseball activities. He's not doing anything below the waist.

"He's doing his workout programs. He's doing all his weight work, all his cardio, all the things he has to do above the waist. But, we don't want him weight-bearing impacting with running and hitting and spinning, you know when you stick a swing and that type of thing, until he feels much much better and he's asymptomatic with the pain in his knee."

Rizzo said Harper will eventually progress to an AlterG treadmill, an anti-gravity treadmill that speeds up the rehabilitation process by supporting as much or as little body weight as needed.

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Howie Kendrick hits two homeruns for Nationals against former team

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Howie Kendrick hits two homeruns for Nationals against former team

WASHINGTON -- Gio Gonzalez allowed two hits in six scoreless innings, Howie Kendrick hit two solo home runs and the Washington Nationals snapped the Los Angeles Angels' winning streak at six with a 3-1 victory Tuesday night.

Gonzalez (11-5) struck out four and issued three walks in lowering his home ERA to 1.79, now the best in baseball. The left-hander, who was three outs from a no-hitter July 31 at Miami, allowed his first hit two hits into the fifth against the Angels.

Los Angeles, which had climbed into an AL wild-card spot during its streak, lost for the first time since Aug. 7. Tyler Skaggs (1-3) allowed the two home runs to Kendrick and five other hits while striking out six in five innings.

Kendrick has homered in three of his past four at-bats after hitting a walk-off grand slam in the 11th inning Sunday night against San Francisco.

Playing their third game since Bryce Harper went on the 10-day disabled list with a bone bruise in his left knee, the Nationals got an insurance run in the sixth on a wild pitch by Bud Norris and an error on Angels first baseman Albert Pujols. That provided some extra breathing room when Cliff Pennington hit a home run in the eighth, the first run Brandon Kintzler has allowed since being traded to Washington from Minnesota.

With Ryan Madson's availability in question after dealing with a blister Sunday, the Nationals went with Matt Albers in the seventh, Kintzler in the eighth and Sean Doolittle in the ninth. Doolittle picked up his 12th save of the season and his ninth with Washington.