Longtime Giant Hunter Strickland Happy to Return With Nationals

SAN FRANCISCO -- Under slightly different circumstances, there could have been plenty of drama surrounding this series with the Nationals. 

But Bryce Harper chose not to return to D.C. and instead will come in with the Phillies later this week, and Hunter Strickland was non-tendered by the Giants in the offseason and returned Monday to pitch for the Nationals, not against them. 

It's impossible to view that connection, made when the Mariners dealt Strickland on deadline day, without thinking of the Harper incident. But Strickland said there weren't any lingering issues when he arrived in a new clubhouse. 

"The past is the past. I don't think that plays any part in this," he said. "I'm honored to be in this position and to help contribute in any way I can."

After catching a bad break in Seattle, Strickland all of a sudden finds himself in a great spot. The 30-year-old right-hander opened the year as Seattle's closer but suffered a serious lat strain during his third appearance. He returned July 28 for one appearance and then was traded to the Nationals, for whom he will serve in a setup role. 

Strickland, who has a second baby on the way in a month, said it has been a hectic stretch. But he's happy to be back in the postseason race and said his first week with the Nationals has been one of his favorite stretches as a professional. 

The trade brought him back to San Francisco for the first time and Strickland entered to protect a three-run lead in the seventh inning Tuesday night. He gave up a run on Pablo Sandoval's double but mostly looked like the same guy, pumping 95-86 mph fastballs in his one inning of work. There was no real reaction from fans either way, but Strickland has been a popular guy before games. 

He met with the current Giants bullpen on Monday and has spent plenty of time before and after BP talking to friends and current Giants. On Wednesday morning, he ran over to left field to greet team physical therapist Tony Reale and outfielder Alex Dickerson. 

Strickland said it was a little weird walking to the visiting side and admitted he thought of "the ups and downs" of his five years in San Francisco, but mostly he was just happy to see familiar faces. 

"It's great to be back," he said. "It's definitely a little different being on this side of things, but just to get to catch up with the guys and talk to them and see how they're doing is what it's all about. It's been good."

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