MLB Washington Nationals

Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper Spring Optimism for Washington Nationals

Stephen Strasburg

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Nationals earned their first-ever playoff berth in 2012 and now aim to play their first-ever playoff series with both Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, after the latter was shut down early to manage his arm post-Tommy John surgery last season. Harper and Strasburg described playing alongside each other in a must-read season preview by Washington Post Nats beat writer Adam Kilgore.

“When he’s pitching, we’re all excited to watch. Everything can be different that game,” said Bryce Harper. “Something could happen that you never see ever again, because he’s pitching and he’s unbelievable.”

Says Strasburg: “He’s a little more the aggressive type. He’ll go out there, and he’ll try to take the extra bag. Sometimes, it’s going to burn him. That’s one thing that enables him to do things you’ve never seen before. You never see guys hitting flares over the shortstop for a stand-up double. You don’t see that.”

Harper hits Opening Day with an impressive amount of extra muscle added to his 20-year-old frame. Already considered to have incredible bat speed, he’s a strong bet to improve upon the .270 batting average and .477 slugging percentage from the 2012 rookie season.

After only throwing 24 innings late in 2011 after recovering from elbow surgery, Strasburg tallied 159.1 innings through the spring and summer last season before Nationals management shut him down. His mark of 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings and .316 ERA leave the D.C. area eager for what’s next.

Opening Day for the Nats is set for an April 1, 1:05 p.m. ET first pitch against the Miami Marlins at Nationals Park.

Thomas Emerick is a Senior Writer for Follow him on Twitter @ThomasEmerick, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google