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Strasburg has 9 Ks in intrasquad minor league game

VIERA, Fla. (AP) — Nationals top prospect Stephen Strasburg pitched for the first time since leaving big league camp, striking out nine batters in 4 1-3 shutout innings of an intrasquad minor league game Wednesday.

The 21-year-old right-hander walked three and allowed one hit. He threw 79 pitches, 46 for strikes, and was taken out after walking two batters in the fifth inning.

"You get out of rhythm, you get a little sped up, and it's going to cause you to fall off to one side or the other, but I'm just going out there and getting my work in," Strasburg said when asked about his control issues in the fifth.

"I knew exactly what happened," he added. "It's happened time and time before, so I know what to do to fix it, and I just got to remember to keep the same tempo and rhythm that I had the first four innings out there."

The No. 1 overall pick in June's amateur draft, who signed a record $15.1 million contract in August, also had one plate appearance Wednesday, sacrificing a runner to second base.

Strasburg was optioned to Double-A Harrisburg on Saturday despite having been Washington's best starter in exhibition games. General manager Mike Rizzo and team president Stan Kasten watched Strasburg pitch Wednesday in Viera, before making the drive over to Tampa for the Nationals' night game against the New York Yankees.

The Nationals are considering having Strasburg pitch for them in an April 3 exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox at Nationals Park in Washington.

"I have given it thought," Rizzo said. "We haven't made a decision yet."

As for moving from the major league side to the minor league side of camp, Strasburg said: "The big difference is when you know you're going to be facing your own team, it's a little more regulated. It's hard to really get excited, get your adrenaline going for the game."

Nationals center fielder Nyjer Morgan, who is nursing a strained hamstring, also played Wednesday, going 0 for 4. He did not face Strasburg.

NOTE: The Nationals brought back RHP Mike MacDougal, agreeing to terms Wednesday on a minor league contract with the pitcher who ended last season as their closer. MacDougal was released by the Marlins on Tuesday and will join the Nationals on Thursday. He had 20 saves in 21 chances last season, had arthroscopic surgery on his right hip in October, then became a free agent in December, when Washington decided not to offer him a 2010 contract. Asked about the hip, GM Mike Rizzo said the Nationals "think that's healthy," but he also said that with less than two weeks left in spring training, "something extraordinary would have to happen for him to break camp with the club."