It’s a stretch: Nats’ Strasburg may ditch windup

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) 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.”

Report: Guardians, 1B Josh Bell reach 2-year, $33M deal

Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO — The Cleveland Guardians and slugging first baseman Josh Bell have agreed to a two-year, $33 million contract, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal was pending a review of medical records.

Bell played for Washington and San Diego last season, batting .266 with 17 homers and 71 RBIs in 156 games.

Cleveland is coming off a surprising 2022 season, going 92-70 and winning the AL Central for the first time since 2018. The addition of Bell gives the Guardians more power for their lineup after they hit just 127 homers this year – the second-lowest total in the majors.

The 30-year-old Bell is a .262 hitter with 130 homers and 468 RBIs over seven seasons with three big league teams. He had his best year with Pittsburgh in 2019, making the NL All-Star team while batting .277 with 37 homers and 116 RBIs in 143 games.

The switch-hitting Bell also is expected to benefit from restrictions on defensive positioning coming to the game next year.