DETROIT -- Washington manager Jim Riggleman plans to keep a strict pitch count on Stephen Strasburg during his outing Friday at Nationals Park against the Chicago White Sox. Riggleman anticipates keeping Strasburg "in the 100 pitch count" range.
In most cases, pitch count is the best indication of the stress a pitcher might potentially feel, but he will also pay attention to how many innings Strasburg pitches. He was able to get through seven in 94 pitches in his Major League debut, which was made especially remarkable because he also had 14 strikeouts. But Strasburg has never gone more than seven innings as a professional and has rarely pitched into the seventh inning even in the Minors, Riggleman said.
"We're being very cautious with him. There's no sense pushing him," Riggleman said.
Part of the challenge of being a power pitcher is that the more strikeouts you have, the more likely your pitch count is going to rise, Riggleman said. He said that Strasburg recognizes the importance of limiting pitch counts where possible, but that doesn't mean he is going to pitch to contact in an effort to get more ground balls.
"When you see double-digit strikeouts, you usually will also see well over 100 pitches," Riggleman said. "I think [Strasburg] is just trying to throw strikes. He wants to move on to the next hitter and the next inning. It's not about pitching to contact."
Brotherhood strong in Nats' bullpen
DETROIT -- There is little debate over the roles in the Washington bullpen as the Nationals have evolved into one of the better bullpens collectively in all of baseball. The team's bullpen ERA is 3.55 so far this season, much better than the 5.04 ERA of a year ago.
One of the main reasons in the last few weeks for that is rookie Drew Storen, who admits that it seems much longer than 2 1/2 weeks that he has been up in the Majors.
Making his transition easier has been the influence of his fellow pitchers in Washington's bullpen. Storen referred to it as a "brotherhood."
"It's a fun group of guys, and I think it helps that I've kind of settled into that sixth- and seventh-inning role," Storen said. "It really doesn't matter who goes out there -- we feel like we can all get the job done and get outs when we need to,"
Storen credited righty Tyler Walker with perhaps being the joker of the Nats' bullpen, saying that Walker is an "energetic and enthusiastic guy. He really keeps things light."
Just listening to veterans like Walker, Matt Capps, Miguel Batista and others has helped Storen make a smooth transition.
As for being in the bullpen, it is a role that Storen relishes.
"It's really a matter of taking pride and relishing your role as a setup man," Storen said. "Then you see guys like [Sean] Burnett going out there and giving the team two and three innings out of the bullpen, and you see that it's just something that you quickly love -- keeping your team in a position to keep a lead or win a game. It goes along with the brotherhood of being in the bullpen."
That brotherhood is what the Nationals were shooting for when general manager Mike Rizzo assembled the bullpen, said pitching coach Dave McCatty.
"I knew the guys that Rizzo brought in were a good mix of guys, who were veteran and character guys and good young arms," McCatty said. "Guys like Capps, [Tyler] Clippard and Miggy have a lot of years in the Majors and have seen it all."
McCatty said he's not surprised by how quickly the bullpen has come together to form one of the strongest corps in the game.
"Those veterans are taking a leadership role, and the strong young arms we have really [invigorate] everyone," McCatty said. "It's a good mix."
While less publicized than fellow rookie Stephen Strasburg, Storen's path to the big leagues has been just as steady. Storen was drafted 10th overall in last June's First-Year Player Draft and had a combined 1.95 ERA in 28 games at three Minor League levels in 2009 and a miniscule 1.08 ERA in 13 games in two leagues, Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse this year. His WHIPs: .078 in '09 and .090 in '10.
Because of that, Storen also has joined the Nationals at a time when there has possibly never been more excitement surrounding the franchise. And it just ramps up the excitement the rookie righty feels.
"We have seen a lot more fans on the road recently than I guess [the Nationals] used to draw," Storen said. "It's exciting because you can really feed off that."
As for the adjustments that Storen has made and will continue to make on the mound, they are continual. He has learned that keeping his pitches down in the strike zone isn't enough. At the Major League level hitters can drive balls down in the zone that aren't sinking, he said.
"Each time you go out there you have to change your repertoire a little," Storen said. "That's going to be more true as I start facing teams for the second and third times."
Bernadina showing off power stroke
DETROIT -- Roger Bernadina hit his fourth home run of the year Wednesday with his 390-footer off Justin Verlander. That hit was one example of the power that Bernadina has, something that often takes time for young players to develop.
Yet hitting home runs is not something that Bernadina tries to do when he steps into the plate.
"If the ball is around the zone, you have to look for something to drive and swing through on the ball," Bernadina said. "It's not something that I'm going up there trying to do."
To not only develop more power, but more consistency in general at the plate, including better contact, Bernadina watches a significant amount of video of his own swing, other hitters and opposing pitchers. He has come to realize that it is the "little things" that help him to improve at the Major League level.
"You look around and see how other guys in the locker room and the veterans, especially, go about their business," he said. "I try to work in the cages every day and really work hard on my swing."
Bernadina has a variety of skills, which is why Washington manager Jim Riggleman plans to give him 400 to 500 at-bats this season. He has the tools to run the bases, be a very good defensive outfielder and find ways to consistently get on base.
"I'd like to see him be a very good all-around player and he's getting better all the time," Riggleman said. "I don't know that we can expect him to be a true [power] hitter, but he is extremely talented. He can play defense, run the bases and makes things happen offensively. For a young guy like that who will get 400-500 at-bats this year, we want him to become more consistent and continue to make adjustments."
Making such adjustments requires Bernadina to maintain extensive focus every day.
"If you lose concentration at all you'll fall behind," Bernadina said. "You can't do that at this level."
Some seats still remain for Friday's Nationals game against the White Sox at Nationals Park featuring Stephen Strasburg. ... Washington manager Jim Riggleman on two of his young hitters, Mike Morse and Roger Bernadina: "Those guys are swinging the bats well right now. I have to find a way to keep them in there." Both Morse and Bernadina started Thursday afternoon in Detroit with Bernadina batting second in the lineup. ... The Nationals continue to struggle on the road, something that has been more noticeable since May 13 as Washington has gone 5-16 snd is 0-7 in series play during that stretch. ... Some veteran Major League pitchers are having some productive season at Triple-A Syracuse. Included in that list is starter Chuck James (2-1, 3.92 ERA in five starts) and relievers Mike MacDougal (2-0, 3.60 ERA in seven appearances) and Ron Villone (2-2, 4.71 ERA in 17 appearances and one start). In addition, 34-year-old Syracuse closer Joel Peralta, who has pitched in 221 big league games covering five seasons, is 19-for-19 in save opportunities and has a 2-0 record and 1.20 ERA.
Mike Scott is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.