In the days leading up to the Nats' '09 no.1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg's second Triple-A start with the Syracuse Chiefs, Washington's top minor league affiliate, several members of the Nationals' organization took to the airwaves to discuss the future of the team's future ace. Before Strasburg threw 6.0 hitless innings last night, DC Skipper Jim Riggleman, pressed to provide a date for Strasburg's MLB debut on the AM airwaves in an interview with 660 WFAN in NY's Mike Francesca, was willing to say that though there was no firm date, "...I think we're probably talking about early June, I would say before June 15th is what we're thinking."
Mr. Riggleman downplayed the addition somewhat, telling Mr. Francesca that if the Nationals, "...can continue to play good baseball and build a little excitement, a little more and a little more, and then bring [Strasburg] on board it's going to be really special," but, "...it's not going to be the identity of our team, it's not like putting a center fielder out there who's going to be the face of your franchise, or Ryan Zimmerman, who's going to be the face of your franchise. When it comes to pitching you have to have several of them and he's a great guy to build around down the road, but right now he's just going to be one of several guys that are out there."
In Spring Training with the Nationals, Strasburg was (1-0) in 3 starts and 9.0 innings pitched, over which he gave up 8 hits and 2 earned runs, while walking just 1 and striking out 12. Washington's first big free agent signing this winter, Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, the future Hall of Fame catcher, spent time behind the plate catching the Nats' 21-year-old right-hander this Spring and he talked about what he saw from Strasburg with MLB Network Radio hosts Kevin Kennedy and Jim Duquette during this past Tuesday's edition of Power Alley.
"I caught Stephen a couple times in Spring Training," Pudge said, "...and I caught him also in bullpen sessions in Spring Training, and the kid is pretty good, he's amazing. He has four pretty good pitches, you know, he's got a 4-seam fastball, the sinker's pretty good, a big breaking ball that he can throw at any time. You know, we used it when I caught him in Spring Training, I used it in 3-2 [counts] for strikes, but the main thing about Stephen is his attitude, his mind, his game preparation..."
Strasburg's thrown 34.0 innings so far this season between Syracuse and Double-AA Harrisburg, where he was (3-1) in 5 starts and 22.0 IP, over which he walked 6 and collected 27 K's, surrendering 13 hits and 9 runs, 4 earned while holding opponents to a .165 BAA and posting a 1.65 ERA. Including the 6.0 hitless in last night's win, Strasburg's now thrown 12.0 innings in two starts with the Triple-A Chiefs in which he's walked just 2 and given up 1 hit while striking out 13 without allowing a run. On the "Fan", WFAN in NY, Mr. Riggleman told Mike Francesca that the "Plan" for Strasburg, as has been reported everywhere, but rarely publically confirmed, would probably have him throw, "...150.0 innnings total. That means we might have about 100.0 when he gets to us." Asked how strictly he'll stick to pitch counts or inning limits once he's in Washington, Mr. Riggleman says, "...for the most part, when he first gets here, we'll be in that 90-100 [pitch] range, and if we can get him six innings it would be a beautiful thing."
Before the Nationals completed the mid-week series in Citi Field by taking two of three from the Mets on the road in NY, and before Strasburg's second Syracuse start once again got the nation's capital buzzing about his impending debut, DC GM Mike Rizzo spoke to 660 WFAN's Ed Coleman on Wednesay's pregame show, "Mets Extra". Mr. Coleman asked Mr. Rizzo about Strasburg (and someone named 'Drew Storen'?) and, "...how far away they might be (from the major leagues) at this time?", and Mr. Rizzo responded that, "...they're both extremely talented performers. Stephen Strasburg has pitched lights out at Double-A, he had a terrific Triple-A start, you know, he's on the cusp of being a major league pitcher. We're just going to do the right thing for him first of all, and for us as a franchise."
"We feel that [Strasburg] needs some tweaking of the nuances of the game," Mr. Rizzo continued, "...we're willing to get him some more minor league innings under his belt, where he can earn the craft of being a starting, professional pitcher in a less stressful situation." "Drew Storen," the Nationals' second '09 1st Round pick who threw 1.1 scoreless last night in relief of Strasburg, and has thrown 16.0 innings in 12 appearances so far this season at Double and Triple-A during which he's given up just 2 ER on 12 hits while walking 3 and striking out 15, "...has been terrific since the day we signed him, he's gone on and zipped through the minor leagues," Mr. Rizzo says, "...through the Arizona Fall League, he hasn't stopped yet, and he's still peforming for us at a high level, you know, both of these guys are big pieces for us in the future and the future might not be as far away as people think."