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Big League Stew

Spring Headlines: Stephen Strasburg in mid-season form; Aroldis Chapman happy as closer

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(AP)

If the regular season started tomorrow we don't think that would be seen enough for Stephen Strasburg. The Washington Nationals ace was in mid-season form on Saturday striking out eight Houston Astros over five and one-third fantastic innings. Or maybe Strasburg's spring training form is simply better than most pitcher's mid-season form.

Hmm.

“It’s starting to click a little bit,” Strasburg told Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post after the game.

That from a guy who during one particularly dominant stretch bridging the second and fourth innings struck out five consecutive batters. That was broken up by a Rick Ankiel home run, which accounted for Houston's only run against him in Washington's 4-2 loss.

“The biggest thing is not really stressing about how the ball feels at the end. You’re still kind of building. I know that the more times I get out there and get my pitch count up, I’m going to feel just exactly the same as I came into the game.”

Of course Strasburg's main concern is upping his workloads and convincing the Nationals to allow him to be a workhorse this season. Whether or not that happens is yet to be determined, but I sure wouldn't want to be that guy who tells he can't or won't be.

Aroldis Chapman happy closing: Earlier in the week we talked about the Cincinnati Reds' indecision surrounding Aroldis Chapman and his role for the upcoming season. Manager Dusty Baker even spoke out in an effort to move the process along so he can start piecing his pitching staff together.

The general feeling all spring has been that Baker would prefer to keep Chapman in the familiar closer role this season, which would allow Mike Leake to start. But we had yet to hear Chapman himself give a clear indication of what his preference would be. That was, until Saturday following his start against the San Francisco Giants. MLB.com's Mark Sheldon has the magic words:

After his start vs the Giants Saturday, Aroldis Chapman gave his most direct answer yet about his job preference between starting and closing:

“I would like to be the closer,” Chapman said via translator Tomas Vera. “But it’s out of my hands.”

And with that, it would appear the two most important votes have been cast for closer, though there will still be a few discussions held internally to determine if that's truly the right track. Stay tuned.

Javier Baez homers twice... again: How locked in is Chicago Cubs prospect Javier Baez right now? How about back-to-back two home run games for the 20-year-old shortstop, including a walk-off blast in a victory over Japan on Friday and two solo blasts in their 8-3 win over the Kansas City Royals on Saturday.

Oh, and here's another significant note about his home run binge.

As you likely noticed at the end of the tweet, the Cubs have already decided their budding superstar will be heading down to minor league camp. In fact, his final official game with the big club will be Sunday afternoon. Manager Dale Sveum has already announced he'll be in the lineup hitting second, so a third straight multi-homer game to cap his big league camp is not beyond the realm of possibility.

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(USA Today)

Dylan Bundy headed to Double-A: Not a surprising development, but the Baltimore Orioles have made it official that top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy will begin the season at Double-A Bowie.

The 20-year-old right-hander had hoped he would be able to make a strong enough impression in his second big league camp to force his way into Buck Showalter’s starting rotation, but he hasn’t been as sharp as he needed to be and there’s possibly a delivery flaw that needs to be ironed out to help him regain some velocity he’s lost since last season.

According to Showalter, with spring training innings and opportunities becoming limited s the season approaches, the decision to send him down now was an easy one. The Baltimore Sun’s Eduardo A. Encina has the skipper‘s full explanation,

“It’s time for him to get stretched out a little bit more and [the innings] aren’t here for him any more,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “We want to go ahead and get that mentality, mindset, adjustment made as soon as possible.”

“We talked about a lot of things today,” Showalter said. “He’s in a really good frame of mind. He likes where he is. He’s had a good spring. It’s kind of fun talking to him about looking back what his impressions were last year and how he feels this year. He gets it. He’s going to be a good.”

Irish baseballers: It’s St. Partrick’s Day, and with that in mind Dayn Perry over at Eye on Baseball is taking a look at notable baseball players that were born in Ireland. Go check it out.

WBC semifinals: In case you missed it, the semifinal matchups at the 2013 World Baseball Classic are set. On Sunday it will be Puerto Rico squaring off with Japan at 9:00 p.m. ET, and then Monday the Netherlands battles the Dominican Republic at 9:00 ET. The championship game will be held Tuesday night at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

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