In an over-long Spring Training, players and fans alike are just playing out the string, counting down the days until the games begin for real on April 1. But Friday’s exhibition against the Detroit Tigers almost gave the Washington Nationals something to worry about.
Stephen Strasburg took a Prince Fielder liner off the left wrist in the fourth inning of what eventually became a 4-3 win for the American League champion Tigers at Space Coast Stadium. After a thorough check by Nationals manager Davey Johnson and the training staff, Strasburg continued to pitch and showed no visible ill effects. He did, however, fall to 0-3 on the spring after surrendering three runs in his six innings of work.
It was the second straight day that a Washington lineup that closely resembled the projected Opening Day starters was completely shut down by an opposing starter. On Thursday, it was Atlanta’s Tim Hudson doing the honors, throwing six shutout innings against the Nationals in the Braves’ 4-3 win. Friday was Drew Smyly‘s turn, as the Tigers hurler allowed just one run on four hits over five innings, striking out five.
Detroit got on the board first in the second inning, as Matt Tuiasosopo took Strasburg deep to right field for a home run. After that, both starters settled in, throwing zeroes until the fifth, after Strasburg’s scare on Fielder’s bat.
“The hand is fine. It just kind of numbed up a little bit out there. It’s a little tender, but nothing crazy,” Strasburg said to Bill Ladson of MLB.com. “You have the adrenaline pumping. I thought I could have caught it. It took a while to sink in when it hit me. Then it got numb. I shook it out. It was just tender after that.”
Fielder and Victor Martinez had RBI singles in the fifth inning for the Tigers before Ian Desmond answered in the bottom half of the frame, powering his second spring homer to bring Washington to within 3-1.
After Strasburg finished his six innings, Johnson summoned Henry Rodriguez, but if the reliever was hoping to justify the apparent decision to keep him on the roster with the Nationals, he didn’t do himself many favors. Rodriguez went to 3-0 counts on each of the first three batters he faced, surrendering a double and a pair of walks. Only a great catch by Roger Bernadina, recently returned from the World Baseball Classic, kept the inning from being a complete train wreck.
The Nats will square off against the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie on Saturday afternoon, with Gio Gonzalez returning to the Washington rotation.