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MLB Washington Nationals

Stephen Strasburg Proves Why He’s Washington Nationals’ Opening Day Starter

Stephen Strasburg Nationals

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Just a day after being named the Opening Day starter for the Washington Nationals, Stephen Strasburg put together a five-inning gem that backs up the decision made by manager Matt Williams. While there are folks in the bloggersphere who thought Jordan Zimmermann should be the No. 1 pitcher, Strasburg proved on Thursday that it should be him.

In his longest outing of the spring, Strasburg pitched five scoreless innings giving up just three hits, one walk and striking out five. He dropped his ERA to .64, which puts him atop the list of Nationals’ starters. It was his third start of spring in which he didn’t give up a run.

Strasburg is in for a monster year in 2014. If Spring Training is any indication, he’ll be a front runner for the NL Cy Young Award. Through 14 innings of work spanning four outings, he has a 3-0 record with a .64 ERA. He has struck out 10 batters while walking just four, and has an opponents batting average of just .172.

In his second full season removed from Tommy John surgery, Strasburg pitched much better than his 8-9 record showed. He finished with a 3.00 ERA with 191 strikeouts; his 9.39 strikeouts per nine innings put him at fourth best in the NL. While he did miss one start due to some discomfort in his throwing elbow, nothing has come up in Spring Training that he pitched five more solid outings after that, so there’s no cause for concern.

As far as I can tell, there’s no reason why we can’t expect another 2013 season in 2014, maybe even something better. He’s been strong in Spring Training, and there hasn’t been any issue with his elbow. Whenever he has taken the mound, he has been dominant. Plus, he has added a slider to his arsenal that has been giving batters headaches.

While Zimmermann had a solid 2013 campaign and was a finalist for the NL Cy Young, the right guy is starting for the Nationals come Opening Day. Strasburg is still the ace on this team, and he will rightfully be taking the mound to open the new season on Mar. 31 against the New York Mets.

Brian Skinnell is a freelance sports writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter and add him to your network on Google.