Hall of Fame hitter Tony Gwynn, who ended a 20-year-MLB-career with a .338/.388/.461 slash, was Stephen Strasburg's manager at San Diego State University. As Strasburg was first breaking into the majors, after he was drafted by the Washington Nationals no. 1 overall in 2009 and made 11 minor league starts, Gwynn was often asked if he'd ever been tempted to step in against the then-18-19-year-old right-hander and see what Strasburg had from the perspective of an opposing hitter.
In an interview with Sirius/XM's Kevin Kennedy and Jim Memolo last June, the now-51-year-old Gwynn admitted that he had contemplated picking up a bat, but, as he put it, "... I was kinda scared I wasn't going to be able to get out the way if he came inside. And you know, the thing with Strassy is that he locates on both sides of the plate and that's, you know, getting in there and facing him wouldn't have been that big a deal because I know his command is good, so getting hit wouldn't have been an issue. But, no I wasn't going to let him embarrass me, I had to kind of keep some credibility, you know, it's probably a good thing to not get up there and face him."
In an interview on XX Sports Radio out of San Diego (which was written about on the SBN's Padres site Gas Lamp Ball), Gwynn responded to another host asking if he'd faced Strasburg by saying simply, "No, I haven't because if I could I'd still be playing," before going on to offer advice on how he'd have approached the right-hander if he did face him:
"If you're facing Stephen Strasburg the game plan is really easy, you can't go up to the plate trying to pull. That's what a lot of teams try to do. You gotta let him throw the ball, let it get deep, try to hit him the other way. It makes no sense trying to pull him. I think mentally I could probably do it, physically no way. In my hay day, oh yeah."
Nats' Skipper Davey Johnson, who managed Strasburg on the '08 U.S. Olympic team and will manage the now 23-year-old in the majors for the first time tonight if rain allows the game to be played, is himself a 13-year-veteran who posted a .261/.340/.404 slash with the Orioles, Braves, Phillies and Cubs, but when he was asked yesterday if he would have liked to face Strasburg during his own playing days, Johnson responded, "Not really."
"What was really impressive about him compared to what I saw his first start up here," Johnson said, referring back to the time he managed Strasburg with the U.S. Olympic team, "He stayed right on the knees, everything was down, in and out, guys had no chance. If somebody fouled off a pitch, he threw them the hook and then it was all over. Then when he came up here, he started elevating a little bit, and punching a lot guys out, but I like it when he stays right down there [at the knees], but he knows he can go up top if wants a strikeout so...he's impressive."