JUPITER, Fla. -- Stephen Strasburg isn't worried about the battle. He's more concerned with the war.
"I don't understand why you guys keeps asking me if I'm ready," said Strasburg, following a rain-shortened outing against the St. Louis Cardinals in his final start before the regular season. "It's gonna be what it's gonna be. I'm going to continue to work throughout the season. It's not like you're working for Day 1. You're working to peak in September, October, the second half."
The Washington Nationals' hurler knows a thing or two about peaking late in the season. Last year, after the All-Star break, he was practically unhittable, going 6-2 with a 1.90 ERA and a 0.75 WHIP, and an absurd 11.5 K/BB ratio. On the season though, he only made 23 starts, thanks in part to a sprained ankle he sustained in spring training that may have contributed to the back and shoulder problems that sidelined him later in the season. As for this spring, his body's been behaving.
"I felt good," said the 27-year old righty after Tuesday's abbreviated start, in which he fanned five batters over three scoreless frames before the heavens opened up at Roger Dean Stadium. "As far as getting the normal workload every five days, I feel like I'm ready for that." His manager agrees.
"He was dealin'," said Nationals skipper Dusty Baker of Strasburg. "Had real good command. Had good tempo. He looked like he's ready."
The outing against the Cardinals was Strasburg's fifth appearance this spring, but his first on the road. His first four starts -- against the Tigers, Mets, Braves, and Yankees -- all came at Space Coast Stadium, the Nationals spring training home. Because veteran regulars tend not to travel for road games, especially early on in the Grapefruit League schedule, Strasburg faced lineups that were somewhat watered down. On Tuesday though, he faced a Cardinals offense that featured the likes of Matt Carpenter, Kolten Wong, and Matt Holliday, and looked a whole like a regular season lineup. Even though St. Louis has struggled offensively this spring, scoring just 93 runs (second-fewest in the majors), Strasburg appreciated the test.
"It's good to see how an everyday lineup is going to handle what you've been working on."