Three hundred and sixty-four days ago, Stephen Strasburg was in Washington, full of nervous anticipation for his major-league debut the following night. Little did the right-hander know how things would progress that night, nor how things would progress over the next year.
This afternoon, speaking to reporters on a conference call from Viera, Fla., where he continues to rehab following Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, Strasburg made it clear he doesn't think much about what happened one year ago but rather what will be happening in the future.
"I haven't really thought about it much, to be honest," he said when asked about the one-year anniversary of his 14-strikeout debut. "It was an amazing experience, but it's kind of foggy right now. I'm really focused on living in the now. I've got a lot of work to do, and I've got a lot of work ahead of me. My goal right now is to get back to 100 percent, go out there and fill up the stadium like I did on that day."
Strasburg had the ligament replacement surgery Sept. 3, and he remains on schedule in his recovery. He recently began throwing off a bullpen mound, and though he's only throwing 30 to 40 fastballs at less than 100 percent velocity, he's satisfied with his progress.
"They want me to go out and throw it nice and easy and fluid and maintain proper mechanics," he said. "That's the biggest thing right now, trying to work on getting the timing back and the mechanics down. Once everything is set in stone, I've thrown enough pitches in bullpens that I can start cranking it up in games."
Many pitchers who have undergone Tommy John surgery admit they don't feel exactly right the first time they play catch or throw off a mound. Plenty have horror stories about their first pitch bouncing 20 feet in front of the catcher or sailing all the way to the backstop.
"People told me that was going to happen, but for me it wasn't that way at all," Strasburg said. "It felt great as soon as I got on the mound. It kind of just came back to me fast."
Strasburg will begin throwing breaking ball and changeups in the next few weeks. At some point, he'll start pitching in extended spring training games in Viera. And then later this summer, he'll embark on a minor-league rehab stint.
If all goes well, Strasburg could be back pitching at Nationals Park in September. He continues to point to that return, 12 months removed from the surgery, as his goal. He also understands that decision will be made by the organization, not by him.
Whenever the opportunity comes -- whether this September or next April -- Strasburg can only hope to enjoy the kind of scene he experienced last June 8. And perhaps remember a few more details this time.
"I remember bits and pieces [of his debut]," he said. "I don't really remember how I pitched certain guys or anything. I remember going out before the game and looked up to the crowd and soaking it all in. I remember [pitching coach Steve] McCatty tipping his hat to all the fans as we walked down the line. And I remember getting the shaving cream in my face after. But what went on during the game, that was all a blur."