Strasburg strong despite Nationals' loss

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Stephen Strasburg showed flashes of brilliance on his long-awaited return to the Major Leagues on Tuesday, the exciting prospect tossing five scoreless innings in Washington's 7-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Appearing in his first MLB game since undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery more than a year ago, the 23-year-old received a long standing ovation from Nationals fans prior to taking the mound and looked sharp from the outset.

He allowed just two hits and struck out four batters before departing with a 3-0 lead after 56 pitches over five innings.

The Dodgers (69-72) rallied in the later innings against Washington's (65-75) bullpen but that hardly dampened the excitement revived by the sight of Strasburg on the mound.

"It felt like I wasn't away from the game for a year. I went out and didn't have butterflies or anything," Strasburg told reporters.

"I went out there and tried to do my job. I got some quick outs and kept the pitch count down. It felt a little different than the debut last year."

The top overall pick in the 2009 draft, Strasburg burst onto the scene as a hard-throwing rookie a year later when he struck out 14 batters on his Major League debut.

He instantly became a main attraction for a struggling Nationals franchise but his season ended in August 2010 when he was injured and subsequently underwent 'Tommy John' surgery.

He finished his curtailed campaign with a 5-3 record and 2.91 ERA in 12 starts.

The long road of recovery included rehabilitation pitching assignments in the minor leagues and culminated with his appearance on Tuesday.

Strasburg is scheduled to take the mound again on Sunday against Houston.

(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by John O'Brien/Ian Ransom)