Nats phenom Stephen Strasburg has nothing left to prove in minors
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- There really isn't much to add to the
Yeah. There's nothing much to add. He's too good for this level. He might be too good for the next level too, but we won't begin to know that until June 4, when he should make his big league debut for the Nationals at home against Cincinnati. That figures to be the closest thing to a playoff baseball atmosphere they have felt in Washington since the Senators of
Strasburg almost certainly won't pitch in the big leagues until June 4 because the Nationals, understandably, don't want him to be eligible for arbitration in two years. And they wouldn't mind him pitching twice on that early June home stand. Of course, that's not what the Nationals say -- they might not even be allowed to say that. Instead, they will say that he still has a few things he could work on. Perhaps his walk to and from the dugout could use a little tightening up. He could improve on the tilt of his baseball cap. Something. Anything. He won't pitch until June 4.
Until then, Strasburg will destroy Triple-A hitters. He will inspire absurd expectations, and he will inspire "Let's wait and see what he does against the big boys" doubts. He will inspire people like
And it goes on. There's nothing else he can do while pitching for the Syracuse Chiefs. On Wednesday, he struck out former major leaguer
Later, he threw a sweeping curveball to Rochester's
Two errors were made behind Strasburg -- he forced double play grounders out of the next batter both times. He struck out six of the last eight batters he faced, sometimes with a high-90s fastball, sometimes with that absurd change-up that, like an annoying driver, disappears into the hitter's blind spot, and once with a curveball that was appeared to stop, drop and roll about four feet from home plate. Inconceivable -- and, yes, I do know what that word means. But, yes, all this was against the Rochester Red Wings.
"What did you think about the standing ovation you got after the game?" he was asked, because when he came out in the seventh inning the Rochester fans stood and applauded him, though he was the visiting pitcher.
"I haven't proven anything yet," he said.
But this is the point -- he can't prove anything more. Not here. So all he can do is wow the people in Upstate New York until he gets the call. And he does that. When the game ended, everyone talked about some Strasburg quality that made them gasp. Rochester manager
If anything, Strasburg was a little bit off Wednesday night. He was not commanding his 97-100 mph fastball the way he normally does. He got behind 2-0 to more hitters than normal. He more than made up for this with his secondary pitches -- his left-breaking curveball and right-breaking changeup. Those were the pitches that left me in awe. They are all out pitches. Any one of those pitches would be good enough to make a pitcher a big prospect.
There have been pitchers who have come up to the big leagues with a high-90s fastball. There have been young pitchers with great secondary pitches. And there have been young pitchers with command beyond their years.
But I wonder if there has ever been pitcher who had all three at such a young age. The thing about big league hitters is that they are ridiculously good. They find ways to score runs on even the greatest pitchers. Not a lot of runs, perhaps. But no pitcher goes through life with an 0.00 ERA.
Thing is: When Stephen Strasburg is throwing 100 mph for strikes and mixing in those two pitches, honestly, I have absolutely no idea how they are going to score runs off him.
But that's left to the imagination for now. Wednesday, it was clear, Rochester was not going to score runs off him. More than 12,500 people squeezed into a stadium that officially seats about 1,700 fewer people. They were sitting in the grass. Stephen Strasburg T-shirts sold for $19.99 -- about five dollars more than the T-shirts of Rochester hero
You never know how that sort of thing will turn out, of course. The last time there was this much hype over a pitcher in Rochester, it was a sellout crowd turning out to see former Yankees phenom
"We heard a lot about (Strasburg)," Rochester catcher
"He's a horse," Nieto says, and you get the sense he doesn't have a higher compliment to offer a young pitcher. Well, there are no higher compliments left. Is Stephen Strasburg the real thing? Can't say that yet. But you can say, without hesitation, that they can't hit him in Rochester.