The notion of Stephen Strasburg coming back better than before? Seemed almost too good to be true for a Washington Nationals franchise so accustomed to misfortune.
Rest assured, Strasburg looks as good as his word.
In his first major league start since undergoing Tommy John surgery, the 2011 edition of Strasburg was every bit as impressive as the 2010 version that wowed the baseball world. The 23-year-old right-hander allowed two hits over five shutout innings Tuesday night before the bullpen blew the lead in the Nationals' 7-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
``It's a big milestone I've accomplished here,'' Strasburg said. ``It's something that ever since I went under the knife, that was my goal to be back pitching in the big leagues in 2011. I was able to do that. Now it's all about getting stronger, staying healthy and being better than ever for 2012.''
Last year's magical days of ``Strasmus'' came to an abrupt end when the 2009 No. 1 overall draft pick felt his elbow pop on Aug. 21 in Philadelphia. His long road back began when he had the now-familiar, career-saving ligament replacement surgery a few weeks later on Sept. 3.
``He didn't skip a beat,'' shortstop Ian Desmond said. ``It's an asset to the organization, a guy like that.''
His workload carefully monitored, Strasburg threw 56 pitches, 40 for strikes. The fastball peaked at 99 mph. He struck out four, didn't walk a batter, and a string of 11 retired in a row ended when Juan Rivera was generously given a hit for a ground ball that went under shortstop Ian Desmond's glove.
``The game seemed it was in slow motion out there,'' Strasburg said. ``From what it felt like in the debut last year, I felt I'd kind of been through it before, so I was definitely a lot more relaxed out there, really focusing on just trying to execute pitches and get guys out.''