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Strasburg stays focused as Opening Day nears

Strasburg stays focused as Opening Day nears

VIERA, Fla. -- A day after being named the Opening Day starter, Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg pitched five shutout innings and struck out five in an 8-1 victory over the Tigers at Space Coast Stadium.

Strasburg was able to hold runners in the game and it allowed catcher Wilson Ramos to throw out Nick Castellanos in the second inning. One of Strasburg's biggest goals this spring is to hold runners better than he has in the past. Last season, Nationals pitchers allowed baserunners to steal at a very high rate.

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The biggest adjustment for Strasburg will be to realize how far off the bag the runners are. He wants to identify the leads.

"Before, I really didn't have an idea where [the runners] were," Strasburg said. "I think the fact that I didn't know sped up [my delivery] a lot. I felt like I could be quicker to home plate, then they started getting running leads and just started stealing on my times. I varied my looks, varied my times, look over. It just keeps them honest. That's all I'm really trying to do."

For the spring, Strasburg has allowed one run in 14 innings with 10 strikeouts. With less than two weeks to go, Strasburg wants to build arm strength before he faces the Mets on March 31.

And how does Strasburg feel about being the Opening Day starter for the third year in a row?

"I hope my career isn't reflected on how many Opening Day starts that I have," Strasburg said. "I think there are a lot guys in this rotation that deserve it. I'm just the first one out. I think every game is going to be just as important. The biggest goal as a team is playing in the playoffs. I want to focus on making starts in the playoffs."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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