Instead, the Tupelo native pushed through it, and on the final day of the season, the Mississippi State right-hander hurled seven innings of three-hit shutout ball at LSU. That capped a strong freshman season for Stratton, who went 5-3 with a 5.29 ERA and had team highs in strikeouts (76) and innings pitched (781/3).
"The arm just gets to where it's tired," Stratton said. "But I actually felt better at the very end (of the season) than I did about three-fourths of the way."
The development continues for Stratton. The Bulldogs began fall workouts two weeks ago, and their pitchers are simply focusing on throwing strikes. MSU issued the third-most walks in the SEC last season.
In addition to that work, Stratton is trying to add to his arsenal of pitches, working primarily on a cutter but also experimenting with a "different" kind of changeup and a two-seam fastball.
Young as he is, Stratton might have to be the linchpin of the staff this year. Lefty Nick Routt missed most of his sophomore season with an elbow injury, and he's on the shelf for most of the fall because of another procedure on that elbow.
"He is a leader, and he's been great, but you don't need one ace, you need like three," coach John Cohen said. "Certainly he is somebody who has the potential to be one of those guys."
One thing Stratton has noticed is a greater amount of cooperation among the pitchers. That's good, considering there are only three juniors who have lettered for State and one senior among the group.
"The whole pitching staff as a whole is just trying to help each other out," Stratton said. "So if some kid is on the mound and he doesn't know what to do on a certain pick-off move, everybody is right on him telling him what he should do. It wasn't like that last year. I don't know what the difference is, but the willingness to help is huge."
Stratton and a healthy Routt are definitely weekend starters, but beyond that, there's not a lot Cohen can say definitively about this team's personnel and how all the pieces fit. If he tried to write down a starting lineup today, it would be nearly impossible, because the team just isn't deep enough into fall workouts.
"The other thing, too, is in my 19 years of doing this, and even in my playing here at Mississippi State, the fall ... cannot predict future results, it just can't," Cohen said. "Some guys who have bad falls have great springs, and vice versa. It certainly helps us evaluate in a lot of different areas."
Making it tougher is an influx of newcomers. Listed on the 44-man fall roster are 16 freshmen and six junior college transfers.
"I would say, as far as the new incoming people we have, they've really bought in to what coach Cohen was selling pretty quick," senior outfielder Jaron Shepherd said. "I noticed that right off from the get-go, and I think that as far as our defense and our hitting has been going, we've been looking really good.
"I'm just waiting to see what our pitching side of it is looking like."
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or email@example.com.