I must admit this was a day I have been waiting for all spring. Since the day the Nationals made the San Diego State star their number one pick overall in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, I was not the only one counting down until Spring Training. Stephen Strasburg was hitting triple digits, regularly, on the radar gun in college.
Well that day came. Amongst all the hype and excitement Strasburg toed the rubber for his first action of Spring Training 2010 against the Detroit Tigers at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Florida.
And he did not disappoint. In his first inning he threw only seven pitches. With none of them registering lower than 96 mph on the radar gun. He fell behind the first two hitters 2-0 then got them both to ground out. In the second inning, things should have been a bit more difficult for the young right hander, with some of the core guys for the Tigers coming to the plate, but he made easy work of Miguel Cabrera with a 98-mph heater and getting Carlos Guillen to ground out to third base on a 97-mph fastball. After allowing two consecutive singles, Strasburg then fell behind 3-0 to Brent Dlugach only to strike him on the third consecutive strike looking; an 81-mph curveball. Strasburg finished the day pitching 2 IP, 2, H, 2 K, and 0 BB. He threw 27 pitches, 15 for strikes.
For the most part, Strasburg looked sharp. His fastball obviously had some zip on it but what surprised me the most was his hook. His curveball froze Cabrera in the second inning for a called strike. And when he came back with a top shelf 98-mph fastball, it just wasn’t fair. Now a little of his success, I guess, can be attributed to the Tigers having never seen this kid throw before. But in no way can you take away from how this kid throws.
In college, he threw two pitches. His fastball and a breaking pitch. It seems at the Major League level, Strasburg will throw two types of fastballs; a four-seam and a two-seamer which both have good movement. He also has a breaking ball and a change-up. There has been rumors of him developing a cutter, but we didn’t see it in his debut.
It still appears to be a pipe dream for Strasburg to start the year in Washington with the big club, but a September call up would not be out of the question. When asked about the possibility of Strasburg making the Opening Day roster, Nationals Manager Jim Riggleman had this to say, “I think it’s going to come down to a philosophical decision more so than a performance decision.”
“We anticipate that he is going to throw great. I think it’s going to come down to, what is going to be best for Stephen Strasburg as an organization? I have been very impressed, and I continue to be impressed.”
My guess is he will start at Class-AA Harrisburg for eight to ten starts before moving up to Class-AAA Syracuse until a possible September call up.
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