PHOENIX - AUGUST 04: Pitcher Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals flips a ball as he sits in the dugout during the Major League Baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 4 2010 in Phoenix Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phillies' skipper Charlie Manuel, who made the decision that ultimately ended any chance of Stephen Strasburg appearing in the 2010 All-Star Game, said at the time on the TBS All-Star Selection special that the then-21-year-old right-hander, "...got quite a bit of consideration. I love watching the guy pitch. I haven't seen him live yet, he hasn't pitched against us, but at the same time I've been watching him." Tonight in Philadelphia's Citizen's Bank Park, Mr. Manuel and the Philllies get to face Strasburg for the first time as the now-22-year-old right-hander makes his 12th start of the year and first against the Nats' NL East rivals from Philadelphia.
Manuel told Philly.com writer Paul Hagen, as quoted in Mr. Hagen's "Philllies vs Nationals preview", that he's, "...excited to see [Strasburg] pitch, but I don't want him to beat us." The Phillies will be the last team in the NL East Strasburg faces, with the Nats' '09 no.1 overall pick (1-2) so far against the Nationals' divisional rivals. In Atlanta on June 28th, Strasburg allowed 6 hits and 4 runs, 3 earned in 6.1 IP in a 5-0 loss to the Braves. The Nats' right-hander received no decision when the Nats beat the NY Mets 6-5 on July 3rd, when Strasburg struggled through a long first and was out after just 5.0 IP, 4 hits, 2 ER and 3 walks, then he got his first curly-W against an NL East foe when he shut the Florida Marlins out over 6.0 innings on the road in a 4-0 win over the Fish in which he gave up 4 hits and 3 walks while striking out 7.
Strasburg was scheduled to face the Braves for the second time on June 27th when he was pulled from the game while warming up and finding himself unable to get loose. In an interview on Sirius/XM's MLB Network Radio yesterday afternoon, DC GM Mike Rizzo told "The Power Alley" hosts Jim Duquette and Kevin Kennedy what he's told broadcasters everywhere since the first time he talked about pulling Strasburg from the start. If Strasburg was a second or third-year starter, he would've worked through the arm issues, but the Nationals weren't taking any chances with their future ace. While the Nats will be keeping a close eye on Strasburg and right-hander Jordan Zimmermann once he returns, the Nationals are no longer worried about Strasburg's arm, in fact, according to Mr. Rizzo, it was somewhat expected that he'd have issues at some point in his first full season:
"Our minor league coordinator, physical coordinator, said that that's the time when those first-year college pitchers hit the wall, almost exactly at that time is when Stephen came up and was a little stiff..."
Since missing that start, Strasburg's struggled a bit with his control, with the 20-day break cited in his first start after the DL stink cited as the reason for some rust, and in his second start, he committed a throwing error which accounted for most of his trouble in an otherwise successful outing. Strasburg's (3-1) in 4 road starts this season, with 19 hits, 8 R, 7 ER and 11 walks (4.24 BB/9) allowed, and 29 K's (11.19 K/9) collected in 23.1 IP. How will Strasburg react to the hostile environment Citizens Bank Park presents? I'd be more worried about how he reacts to the first pop fly HR that goes out of the Phillies' miniature ballpark. Strasburg vs the Phillies. If only they'd saved Halladay for tonight.