Mike Rizzo on Stephen Strasburg's latest
Our man Sheinin had Stephen Strasburg's third start covered this morning and caught up with Mike Rizzo, who was there. Well, Rizzo motored back to Nationals Park from Harrisburg, with Stan Kasten riding shotgun, in time for tonight's game - and in time to provide some further insight on what he saw and what comes next. Here's Rizzo:
What were your impressions of Stephen?
He really has addressed a few of the things that was asked him to address. I noticed, the few times he was in the stretch today, that he's loading up much better on his back side from the stretch and not losing any velocity from the stretch. He's more 1.15 to 1.25 (seconds) from the stretch, which is kind of a target area for us. He did that. He seems to be fairly comfortable with the bat, on the offensive side of it, so that was good. The changeup, I thought, has come a long, long way, even from when I've seen him in spring training. To me, it's a 'plus pitch' right now, it's an 'out pitch' that he can throw for a strike. So he's doing everything he needs to do to make himself major league ready and of course the poise and the stuff and the power is there.
Do you almost need to find a way to get him more experience out of the stretch, with guys on base?
No. Even today, he got enough work from the stretch to improve what he needs to improve. it's kind of a muscle memory and a feel thing that what you work on a lot in the bullpen you take out to the mound in a game situation, as the game speeds up. and then we've seen that he's made a conscious effort of doing it in the bullpen and he's taken it to where it needs to come to him on the mound.
What other improvements would you like to see him make?
Just a little more consistency with his fastball. He elevated some fastballs today that were swung through
on that level that may not be swung through on a major league level, would probably be taken for a ball. So he needs to work on that. But we're really nitpicking here. ... He's getting a feel for the five-day rotation, which is probably the most important thing that we want him to get a feel for _ how to prepare to pitch every five days.
What's next? How many more starts will he make at Harrisburg?
Not sure. We're going to take it start-by-start and see where it leads us. I've got a tentative plan in my mind that I'm not going to share with you guys. But we see that he certainly needs more work down in the minor leagues. We're going to see him in the big leagues, and when we see him in the big leagues, we hope he's here for good.
Without sharing specifics of that plan, have you determined if he will pitch at Triple-A or not?
I have determined that. I'm not going to share it with you right now. But there's a definitive plan in my mind. It's just: When is it implemented? How many things? How many starts? When does he come up? And that type of thing.
How much is based on what he is actually doing at Harrisburg?
It has very little to do with his earned run average or if he wins or loses a game. It's more of the plan, the preparation to be on a five-day rotation and to learn _ like I've been saying _ the nuances of pitching, beyond throwing a fastball, a breaking ball and a changeup for strikes and showing his power.
Had you been curious to see him with your own eyes? Was it eye-opening?
No, I feel comfortable with his physical skills. I know what I'm going to see, and barring injury, that's what we're going to get out here. It's just -- what I've learned in my years of developing players, and specifically pitchers, is it goes much, much more beyond how fast you can throw the fastball and your breaking ball and your changeup and location. There's a lot of things that go into it. And that's the thing that I'm so cognizant of and I want to be so careful with, because I want him to have a full arsenal and be fully ready to perform at the major league level, because I have such respect for the major league game and these major league hitters. Believe me, 95, 98, 100 mph fastballs and good curves and good changeups with location don't always translate into being fully prepared to pitch on the major league level.
Will you ramp up his pitch limit while he's still in the minors?
Yeah, I think we're going to increase his workload in the minor leagues. ... We'd like him to be able to pitch into the seventh inning _ at least _ when he gets to the big leagues.
When he does get to the big leagues -- this is probably getting ahead of ourselves here -- at that point, will he have a pitch count beyond a Jason Marquis or Craig Stammen? Will he be treated differently at all as far as pitch count when he's here?
Uh, yeah, I think that is getting way ahead of ourselves.
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