Q&A with Stephen Strasburg

Q&A with Stephen Strasburg

One can understand why Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg is getting a lot of publicity these days.

He has a great arm.

Before he was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft by Washington, Strasburg went 13-1 with a 1.32 ERA in 15 starts at San Diego State University en route to being named the '09 Golden Spikes Award winner. He struck out 195 batters and issued just 19 walks in 109 innings.

After signing a four-year contract worth more than $15 million with the Nationals, Strasburg went to the Arizona Fall League, going 4-1 with a 4.26 ERA. He struck out 26 batters in 19 innings for the Phoenix Desert Dogs before going down with a left knee injury, which did not require surgery.

Now healthy, Strasburg, 21, has reported to Nats camp and will pitch in several games before the team decides where he will start the season. General manager Mike Rizzo said late last month that if Strasburg is impressive during Spring Training, he would not rule out putting Strasburg on the Opening Day roster.

Before he began his workouts Friday, MLB.com caught up with Strasburg to talk baseball and about being in his first big league camp.

MLB.com: This is your first big league camp. How good is it to get this one under your belt?

Stephen Strasburg: It's great. It's like a dream come true. Growing up as a little kid, you always wanted to play professional baseball. Now it's starting to become a reality for me. I'm really excited.

MLB.com: You have received a lot of publicity. How do you feel about all the attention you are getting?

Strasburg: It's all good, especially with the kind of career that I was blessed with at [San Diego] State. It's going to come with a lot of hype. So you really can't worry about it too much. This is all new to me, like all the other guys starting their careers. You try to go out there and learn as much as you can.

MLB.com: What did you learn from San Diego State that you can take with you to the big league camp?

Strasburg: It's the way you act around your teammates. That's always been second nature to me. I like to get to know guys in the clubhouse and everything like that. A lot of it is mental and consistent work ethic. It's something that I learned at State. I learned how to work hard. Just because I'm playing pro ball now, it doesn't mean I can stop working. I just have to take my game to the next level.

MLB.com: A lot of people credit Tony Gwynn for who you are today. How much did you learn from him?

Strasburg: It was the entire coaching staff at State. Growing up, I was a Tony Gwynn fan. I read all of his hitting books and everything. What I learned from him is, you have to show up and get as much as you can out of practice every day. Just take that game to pitching.

Obviously, I'm not hitting -- not right now [laughing]. You have to take that same work ethic toward your pitching game. As far as the mentality and approach to pitching, I learned a lot from Rusty Filter, who is now at Stanford. He was a great mentor for me. I consider him like a second father.

It's a group effort and I learned a lot from every single one of those coaches. They are just amazing people and I was very lucky to learn from them.

MLB.com: A lot of people believe you have a shot at being a member of the Nationals' rotation this year. What do you think of your chances?

Strasburg: That's not for me to decide. They have a plan for me and they are going to stick to that. I only worry about what's in my control and going out there trying to answer the bell every time out.

MLB.com: Have the Nationals told you what the plans are for you?

Strasburg: No. They let me relax this offseason [after the Arizona Fall League]. Let me get back into shape. Now, it's time to wake up in the morning and go to the park.

MLB.com: You seem so relaxed in front the media today. Last year, you seemed uncomfortable. What's the difference?

Strasburg: Coming from the hype and everything, it was a little crazy. Once you get into the structure of everything, you are able to relax. When you are coming into a new profession for the first time in your life, it can be a little crazy. Now I'm starting to get the hang of it. I'm excited to be here. I'm ready to get going.

MLB.com: How's your left knee?

Strasburg: Oh, it's 100 percent. It has been 100 percent for a few months. It was a mild MCL sprain. I just went out and rehabbed a little bit this offseason. I'm throwing bullpens and all that good stuff.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.