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Final thoughts on Stephen Strasburg's debut, plus links

There were several things you could take away from Stephen Strasburg's debut yesterday. One is, he's not long for the minor leagues. Another is, there is no place he'd rather be -- except for maybe taking a walk with Bentley, his Yorkie -- than on a pitching mound and away from the "craziness" surrounding him. Yet another is, he is not content to merely blow his fastballs by hitters. He is not merely a flamethrower; he's a pitcher.

Strasburg planned on throwing more breaking balls from the start, but adrenaline forced him to fall behind and then the Tigers kept swinging at his 97-mph sinking fastballs. In the second, he was able to show his full arsenal -- 81-mph breaking balls, 90-mph changeups, his four-seam fastball that made the radar gun go "crazy," catcher Wil Nieves said; it might have been 99 or 100 mph, he said.

His changeup is particularly fascinating. It is only 6 or 7 mph slower than fastball, a smaller disparity than the typical 10 to 15. But the pitch moves like a splitter, dropping viciously down at the plate. "What a real problem," pitching coach Steve McCatty deadpanned. His point: Who cares about the relatively small difference in speeds -- it's a great pitch.

And anyway, it may have the desired effect. Before Don Kelly singled, Strasburg threw him two consecutive changeups. He foul-tipped both, way out in front of each pitch.

"For me, it's not about speed," Strasburg said. "You got to trust your grip. It's a variation of your fastball. You shouldn't be slowing your arm down and trying to take off speed. The thing that's going to sell it is your arm speed. That's what I'm trying to go out there and do, just locate it down in the zone. Throw it on the seams like a changeup, and it's going to have some downward tilt to it. It could be 5, 6 mph lower and still be super-effective."

Strasburg was more effusive yesterday than he has been all spring. My guess is because he could talk about pitching.

After he headed home, Strasburg still wanted to talk about pitching. Cell phone to his ear, he reflected about what he could have done better, even thought it was mother on the phone.

"I hate to use the word critical," Kathy Swett said. "He's just very serious about what he does."

Strasburg will rest three days, throw a bullpen, rest one more day and then pitch again, likely putting him on pace to pitch again March 15. Can't wait.

Just the first start had some wondering if Strasburg will be ready for the big leagues in April. Strasburg lived up to the hype. Yup, the Strasburg Era is underway. Strasburg was great, but the Tigers still won. Here's one more look at Strasburg.

In case you missed it in the deluge of Strasburgeddon, Sheinin caught up with Chad Cordero in Arizona. Baseball Prospectus ranks the Nationals as the 12th best crop of prosecpts.

By Adam Kilgore  |  March 10, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Stephen Strasburg  
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Next: Jesus Flores will visit Dr. James Andrews, miss at least 10 days


Good morning. Thanks for the further background and all the links. I particularly enjoyed reading the Yahoo piece (Strasburg knows heat) and the expanded Cabrera quotes in the ESPN piece.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 10, 2010 8:20 AM | Report abuse

I am glad for Strasburg. But it is time for the Nats to 'win' a few spring training games. I know, I know, winning isn't the primary goal in spring training games. But this spring already has the feel of last season. Losing becomes a habit or as the the little guy in 'The Natural' says, "losing is a disease'! He's right.

Posted by: Sojouner | March 10, 2010 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, a W would be nice. I liked their (Figaro-assisted) rally in the 8th, though.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 10, 2010 8:47 AM | Report abuse

When is it time to bring in Psychologist Frank Carpenter?

Losing is a Disease, as Contagious a Polio

Losing is a disease, as contagious a bubonic plague

Even with Strasburg we need 8 more Roy Hobbs!

At least I'm not an Indians fan. In the Nats "plan" I trust. Go Front Office!

Posted by: PNatsFan | March 10, 2010 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, the Indians are 4-0. That must be rough.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 10, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

...and Nyjer had two steals, BOTH feet first.
Now let's get some curly dubyas!

Posted by: rvrtis | March 10, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Adam: Your former colleague Nick Cafardo also had a column today wondering about how long the Nats can keep him in the minors.

I did a quick calculation. The first time I think the Nats need a 5th starter at home is 4/18. They need one once before in citifield. Pitching every 5th day from now through the end of spring lines Stras up for 4/3 (exhibition v Red Sox), 4/8 (home opener in Potomac), 4/13 (harrisburg at Bowie), and 4/18. Pitching on 4/18 would leave 169 days in the regular season, which ends on 10/3. That is less than a full season, so it gains the Nats an extra year of control (2016) before free agency. Super 2 is irrelevant because he is under contract. I have not factored in off days this spring, but it is certainly possible that this path woudl be an option if he kicks the door in like Jordan Zimmermann did last year.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | March 10, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

My impressions of last nights game; Starsburg is great, very happy he is aboard. That high fastball he struck out Cabraera with as located on the pitch track was perfect location on the outside corner, and that last strikeout the 3-2 curveball was beautiful nothing much to add to that one.
Tyler Walker f-ing sucks, hopefully he was working on something cause they gave him every opportunity to get out of there and he flat out couldn't. Aaron Thompson looks very promising.
Nyjer looked great, love that bunt to get on, and the steals were nice, spiked the guy on the first one. That kind of hustle out of him will be great, I really hope he stays healthy.
Ian needs to be at SS. let Guz play RF and see how well he does. Guz will have to face the music dudes a bench spot if this keeps up.
Lastly we need to win a ST game. Its getting bad at this point.

Posted by: Stu27 | March 10, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

I love watching Nyjer run the bases, and I liked the feet first steals as well.

As previously noted, the more I see of Desmond, the more I like him. Kennedy had a nice stop at one point. He strikes me as a gamer (but, dude, try leaning out a bit more when you spit that tobacco juice - wouldn't want to sit by him in the dugout ;-)).

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 10, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Some1 better tell Mr. Rizzo that Wins and Losses matter. Bowden never woulda gotten away with such a dumb statement. When did Rizzo become Mr. Teflon around here?

Oh and BTW thanks for addressing the Nats needs in the offseason buy signing ONE--that's ONE veteran starting pitcher. Silly me, I thought you needed 5--that's FIVE starting pitchers in a major league rotation.
Who are the Nats 5? Oh that's right-- no one knows. But what a great offseason by Rizzo.

Posted by: dovelevine | March 10, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

At some point they will need to shut Strasburg down this year, once he hits whatever innings limit has been established for him. I would think that the last thing they would want to be forced to do is shut him down in mid-August or even early September. Once he's in the rotation, he becomes an attendance draw and that's not something you want to give up late in a season when you're long out of any realistic shot at the postseason. It's easier to limit his innings in the minors than it is in the majors, so I think that will be a compelling reason to keep him down on the farm as long as possible rather than bringing him up in April as others have suggested.

Posted by: TBCTBC | March 10, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

BTW, nice game story in the birdcage liner today, Mr. K.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 10, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

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