VIERA, Fla. (AP) - Given all he's been through the last year, it was hardly surprising Stephen Strasburg was ``amped up' for his spring training debut.
The 23-year-old right-hander struck out three and gave up two runs and three hits in the Washington Nationals' 10-2 loss to the Houston Astros on Sunday.
After having Tommy John surgery in 2010 and making just five starts last September, Strasburg wasn't as consistent as he would have liked, particularly with his off-speed pitches. But he was happy with throwing 44 pitches, 26 for strikes.
``The biggest thing I noticed was that it was very easy for me to go out there,' Strasburg said. ``My arm felt a lot stronger. It didn't feel like it was getting tired as fast (as last year). I mean, it was pretty much a breeze. I was a little erratic at times, but I know that's going to come with repetitions and just fine-tuning the mechanics.'
Stadium workers preparing for the game discovered a surprise guest - a raccoon - roughly 2 1/2 hours before game time. The raccoon scurried through the stands for at least 30 minutes, but was eventually captured by a trapper and removed from the stadium.
Houston starter J.A. Happ was pleased with the way he made adjustments in his two innings of work. The left-hander gave up one run on three hits while striking out one.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson didn't sound surprised that Strasburg was a little hyped up Sunday.
``The year Stras has been through, with his physical abilities, it's kind of hard to throttle down,' Johnson said. ``He's real hard on himself, but it is fun watching him, even when he's amped up and overthrowing.'
Houston catcher Chris Snyder, who hit solo home run on a 3-1 fastball - Strasburg called it a ``here it is, hit it' pitch - had never faced the much-hyped Nationals pitcher. He came away impressed.
``He's got live stuff, definitely,' Snyder said. ``That first fastball he threw me, it gets on you (quick), and then he buckled me with a curveball. (The home run pitch) was just a strike fastball. He was trying to get back in the count.'
Snyder was also pleased with the way Happ and reliever Henry Sosa were able to get out of jams against the Nationals, who stranded two runners in the second and third innings.
``You'd like to say every time out you'd want them breeze through their two innings, or (through to their) pitch count,' Snyder said. ``But actually, you get more evaluation when they get in those situations, and it was good.'
Happ told reporters he was simply trying to recognize the adjustments he needed to make on the mound during the game. He was particularly happy with the way he bounced back after giving up a lead-off walk to Washington's Michael Morse in the second inning, even though he did eventually give up an RBI single to Jason Michaels.
``I felt like I slowed up a little to Morse on the walk, then I corrected that and kind of got my rhythm back and made some good pitches,' Happ said. ``I feel pretty good about it.'
Houston's Fernando Martinez had two hits and four RBIs, including a three-run homer off Washington reliever Tom Gorzelanny, who gave up seven runs in one inning. J.D. Martinez also homered for the Astros.
Washington outfielder Bryce Harper went 1 for 2 with a single. He also made a diving attempt on a ball hit into the right-field corner in the eighth inning. Harper couldn't come up with the catch and Houston's Brian Bixler got a triple.
Johnson was asked if he thought Harper should have stayed on his feet and tried to hold Bixler to a double.
``At that point, make a great play,' Johnson said. ``What the heck, we're eight runs down. I liked his hustle.'
NOTES: Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche is expected to make his spring debut Wednesday when Washington hosts St. Louis. LaRoche has been bothered by a sprained left ankle and a sore left shoulder . Astros manager Brad Mills has tentatively written outfielder Carlos Lee into the lineup for Monday's game against Atlanta, but was still waiting for updated medical reports. Lee sustained a mild right hamstring strain Friday.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved