Early on a sleepy weekend morning, the Washington Nationals’ spring training clubhouse just beginning to stir, baseball’s most celebrated and hotly discussed right arm lifted a bottle from a dressing stall shelf, holding it up for a visitor. The colorful label read: “BodyArmor Super Drink.” Stephen Strasburg, owner of that special and most carefully protected appendage, shrugged and said he’d grown up on Gatorade and this new nutritional product was “just something different to drink around the house.”
Strasburg has that bleached and raw-boned look — 6 feet 4 inches tall, a well-distributed 220 pounds, light hair closely cropped, scruffy goatee — that presents the appearance of natural body armor. Except we all know better, given the elbow surgery that limited him to a combined 72 innings in 2010 and 2011, along with the consensus belief that pitchers are the most delicate of all prize athletes.
At 24, Strasburg has a new season and, body willing, roughly 200 innings ahead of him for the first time. The Bubble Wrap that General Manager Mike Rizzo protected him with last season — frustrating Strasburg and flummoxing Nationals fans as they lost without their ace in the first round of their inaugural postseason — has been removed.