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'Boring' and 'normal' Stephen Strasburg is off to a stellar start

Stephen Strasburg has used a new pitch -- a slider-cutter -- to get off to the best start by a starting pitcher in franchise history. Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Stephen Strasburg is a man of actions and few words. He doesn't talk to reporters the day before his starts and, like every starter, doesn't speak on his pitching days.

But Strasburg's team -- and seemingly anyone with a front-row seat to his franchise-record 10-0 start -- will do the talking for him. Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker explained how Strasburg is an anomaly both on and off the field.

"His demeanor is almost boring," Baker said. "It's hard to tell whether he's happy or sad. You guys see the same guy I see, right? He's pleasantly boring."

Baker, in his first season with Washington, noted that he wasn't around to see the early stages of Strasburg's career. However, from what Baker was told, Strasburg has matured noticeably.

"He's probably stronger mentally and not affected by things," Baker said. "I heard little things would bother him. If it was raining or if it was hot or a rain delay or, oh, you know, he wouldn't get the bunt down."

Strasburg showcased his mental fortitude in his latest start against Philadelphia. After three shaky innings in which he allowed five hits and four earned runs, Strasburg retired 14 batters and struck out seven.

Even more impressive are Strasburg's numbers compared to those of aces around the league. He is fourth in strikeouts with 110, behind only Clayton Kershaw, Jose Fernandez and teammate Max Scherzer. He's one of only three pitchers in the league to tally 10 wins, and he has 13 straight victories since the past season.

There isn't one magic secret to Strasburg's incredible run. But if there were, it likely would be the slider-cutter hybrid pitch he has incorporated this season.

"It's a new pitch he's using right now," catcher Wilson Ramos said. "All the hitters are thinking more because they're not just thinking fastball, changeup, curve. They're thinking about the slider-cutter. That pitch is very difficult for the hitters."

Ramos, who is in a contract year, admitted that there is often pressure to perform for a long-term deal. He said pitchers especially can go one of two ways once they ink a robust contract: It either alleviates tension or enhances it.

The $175 million extension Strasburg signed in May has worked in his favor.

"Now he has the big contract, it's all smiles," Ramos said. "He's more relaxed. Dusty gave more confidence to him because he's pitching relaxed. He doesn't have any pressure."

While his dominance is certain, Strasburg's personality remains enigmatic. Jonathan Papelbon, a closer known for his gregarious nature and animated tendencies, said Strasburg is actually more like that than not.

"Stras kind of harbors his feelings out there in a way that he keeps it in," Papelbon said. "I let it go because if I kept it in, I'd explode. He may not, you know? That's really the difference. We're actually really similar. He's a really normal guy."

For many, "normal" isn't shying away from the spotlight. Neither is becoming the first starting pitcher in franchise history to begin a season with 10 consecutive wins. But for Strasburg, perhaps there's a new normal.

Papelbon, who also redefined the word in his own ways, explained: "He's at a point in his career now where he knows what works for him and what doesn't work for him, and he uses that to his success. I think that he's just come into his own and knows himself. Every player has to go through that at some point, and I think he's there."