JUPITER, Fla. -- Putting a runner on base to begin an inning is usually something to avoid for any pitcher, but when Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg did so in each of his first three innings on Saturday, it wasn't such a bad thing.
Strasburg has made holding baserunners a priority this spring after allowing 27 steals in 34 attempts (a 79 percent success rate) over the past two seasons. His start against the Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium provided a good deal of practice.
Strasburg gave up a single to Rafael Furcal to begin the first, issued a walk to Marcell Ozuna to open the second and allowed a single to Josh Rodriguez to start the third. In each case, Strasburg paid attention to the runner, and in each case, that runner never advanced to second. None attempted a steal.
"It's just repetition," Strasburg said. "I do the same things over and over again and go into the game with the same mindset of what I need to do. Basically just making it harder when guys are on base to get in scoring position. It's going to help me out in the long run, especially over the course of a season."
Manager Matt Williams said Strasburg is "varying his looks" to first, sometimes giving a quick throw over and other times throwing after holding the ball a while. At this point, it's becoming a more natural part of his game.
"He's got a routine that he's doing now," Williams said. "So he's thinking about it, but then he's letting the ball go and throwing strikes. The indicator there is if he's not throwing strikes, if he's out of rhythm, but I don't see that."
Strasburg, in his third start of the spring, lasted four innings overall and bumped his pitch count to 61. He allowed two hits, walked one and struck out four, saying his mechanics "felt a lot more locked in this time." He also continued throwing his slider, another new part of his repertoire this year.
"I threw a few, had some good ones," Strasburg said. "I was pulling them a little bit early, but then I kind of got it down and liked what I saw."