Cardinals 6, Nationals 2

Stephen Strasburg has never been to Chicago, much less

experienced what it’s like to pitch at Wrigley Field.

On opening day, for that matter.

He’s about to find out. The young Washington ace pitched four

innings in his final tuneup Saturday as the Nationals lost to the

St. Louis Cardinals 6-2.

Strasburg allowed three runs, two of them earned, all in the

second inning. He gave up five hits overall, striking out three and

walking one.

Strasburg finished spring training with a 1-4 record and 4.18

ERA. He struck out 17 and walked six in 23 2-3 innings. His next

outing will come Thursday against the Cubs.

”I’m ready to get out of Florida, that’s for sure,” Strasburg

said.

The 23-year-old wrapped up his first full spring training since

undergoing Tommy John surgery in September 2010, which cut short

his rookie season.

”I think the bottom line is I got my work in, got the innings

in,” Strasburg said. ”I felt good some days, felt a little off on

others. All in all, I’m happy with it. I learned a lot. It’s still

a huge learning process, and I think I have a much better idea of

what makes me successful. I’m just going to try to build off

that.”

Strasburg will be limited to 160 innings this season, but that

didn’t stop the Nationals from making him their No. 1 starter. His

family will be in Chicago for the opener, which will mark the first

time his mother has seen him pitch in person since he made his

major league debut against Pittsburgh on June 8, 2010, when he

struck out 14.

”It’s been a long time,” Strasburg said. ”I’m excited for the

experience. It’s something that doesn’t happen to everybody, to

start opening day in Wrigley. It’s going to be fun no matter

what.”

While it may be a long five days for Strasburg to wait until he

pitches again, it’s an even more excruciating time for players like

infielder Chad Tracy, who’s trying to make the Nationals as a

reserve. Tracy had two hits, including a solo homer, but could

possibly lose out to outfielder Xavier Nady whenever the final

roster cuts are announced.

”I think everybody’s waiting,” Tracy said. ”No official word

has been given. I feel good about where I’m at, where I stand.

You’ve just got to let things play out and hopefully, you go

north.”

For St. Louis, right-hander Jake Westbrook finished off a strong

spring, throwing 5 2-3 innings of two-hit ball. He allowed the home

run to Tracy and walked three while striking out four. He finished

the spring with a 1.50 ERA.

”Jake was just … all the normal stuff. Controlling the

counts, using the bottom of the zone, letting the sinker do its

thing and trusting his defense,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny

said. ”It was the same old stuff he’s been doing all spring. It

was nice to see again.”

Daniel Descalso had a big day for St. Louis with two doubles and

four RBIs.

The win gave the Cardinals a 16-8-2 exhibition record, meaning

the defending World Series champions will avoid double-digit losses

in spring training for the first time in more than 10 years,

despite losing star Albert Pujols and manager Tony La Russa.

NOTES: Nationals OF Roger Bernadina was in the original lineup,

but was replaced by Corey Brown. A native of Curacao, Bernadina had

flown home after the death of his father and had not rejoined the

team by the start of game, though he was in the locker room after

it had already started. … Westbrook isn’t scheduled to pitch on

April 9, but likely will stay with the team and get his throwing in

on the side. … The Cardinals switched things up as Jose Oquendo

coached first base and Chris Maloney worked the third base box.

Matheny said he wanted to have an open line of communication with

Maloney in the event Oquendo is ever ejected or is absent for some

reason.