Feb 10, 2013

Stammen believes Nationals have the team to repeat

BY RYAN BERRY 
MANAGING EDITOR 
DARKE COUNTY – The first sign that spring is right around the corner is when pitchers and catchers report to spring training. Warm days can’t be far behind. For a former Versailles High School and University of Dayton graduate, it means the warms days are coming a little quicker.

Craig Stammen, formerly of North Star, has already set up shop in sunny Viera, FL, spring training home for the Washington Nationals. The talented right-handed throwing relief pitcher reports to camp on Feb. 12, but left Ohio on Feb. 6 to have time to set up an apartment and get a few workouts in prior to working out with the team. Stammen noted he has been working out all winter, but most of it has been indoors and throwing off plastic mounds and running on a treadmill. He likes to arrive about five or six days early to prepare for the training camp by running outside and throwing off of a real mound.

Although he has approximately three years in the major leagues, last season was his first full season in the big leagues. The season was special for Stammen in a multitude of ways. Nobody thought the team would win the East with proven winners like Philadelphia and Atlanta in their division. Although it was their goal, even the team didn’t expect to have the season they did when spring training started. “We hadn’t proved we could be that good of a team,” he said. Once April got going and the team continued to win, they developed a sense of confidence.

Stammen’s career year followed in much the same manner. He went to spring training hoping and working hard to make the team. A good April gave him the confidence he needed to know he could compete on a major league level. He went on to post a 2.34 ERA in 88+ innings and 59 games. He pitched in four games during the post season.

According to Stammen, the biggest difference for the team this year is “We won the East last season. We are the hunted this year.” One of the keys for winning last year was a healthy pitching staff. None of the starters missed a start and the bullpen was also healthy throughout the season. An injury to Ryan Zimmerman and the call up of eventual 2012 Rookie of the Year, Bryce Harper, turned a good season into a great season. With the core of young players on the roster, he believes they have a good chance of repeating and winning more than 98 games this year if everybody stays healthy.

Stammen recognizes that he had a tremendous season last year and knows it will be difficult to repeat. He goes into spring training with a little more confidence and a little more relaxed than last year, especially after signing a two-year deal worth $2.25 million. Although the contract is security in case his career comes to a sudden end, Stammen will be working on keeping his mind focused and not being too comfortable. He wants to be on edge.

The 6’ 4” pitcher expects to keep his role as a long reliever. “Like I’ve told the organization, I’ll do whatever you want me to do to help the team.” Stammen believes his “blue collar” attitude allows him to work multiple appearances and innings He will turn 29 on March 9 and feels like he is in the best shape of his life.

After working his way through the minor leagues from 2005-2009 and parts of the 2010 and 2011 season and the major league last year, Stammen still has a plan if the baseball career doesn’t work out. “If I wasn’t playing baseball, I would be working for my dad at North Star Hardware and Implement.”

Craig Stammen (center) recently attended a Greenville Kiwanis meeting with his father, Jeff (right). Also shown is Cindy Riffle, Kiwanis president. 

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