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In Altoona, Stephen Strasburg 'moves the needle'

On Monday, Matt Hoover learned first-hand something pretty obvious about Stephen Strasburg. "When it comes to tickets," Hoover said, "he really moves the needle."

Hoover would know. He is the director of ticket sales and promotions for the Altoona Curve, the team Strasburg will face in his first minor league start April 11. After Mike Rizzo let it be known Monday when Strasburg would pitch for Harrisburg, the Curve sold 600 tickets overnight. On a typical day, Hoover said, the Curve could expect to sell about 50.

For a normal April 11 game, Hoover said, the Curve would draw about 4,000 fans. He is hoping for somewhere around 6,000 for Strasburg's maiden start.

"It's a nice little present to open the season," Hoover said.

You may have seen on Twitter that J.D. Martin was optioned to Syracuse today. That makes Scott Olsen and Garrett Mock the remaining options to become the Nationals' fifth starter. The Nationals have to decide today if they will keep Olsen in the organization and pay him his full, $1 million salary for the year or release him and owe him 45 days' pay. Olsen had not been told when I left Viera this morning, and nothing is official. But he was scheduled to pitch Friday according to the sheet in the Nationals' clubhouse, so that could be a pretty big clue.

I'll have more on all of that in a later post.

By Adam Kilgore  |  March 31, 2010; 10:50 AM ET
Categories:  Stephen Strasburg  
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Next: Updates: Nationals at Cardinals


Olsen vs Mock? Sounds like a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario...

Posted by: Juan-John1 | March 31, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Olsen vs Mock? Sounds like a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario...

Posted by: Juan-John1 | March 31, 2010 11:36 AM

I was thinking more like going to the doctor and hearing him ask, "Shot or suppository?"

Posted by: TimDz | March 31, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Whichever one it is, they're just keeping the seat warm for Strasburg anyway. So in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn't matter.

Posted by: nunof1 | March 31, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

I just can't see the team releasing Olsen with options left; if they do I might be swayed to joining the "Lerner is cheap" argument.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | March 31, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

I feel bad for JD Martin. He has outperformed Olsen and Mock this spring/ end of last season

Posted by: PNatsFan | March 31, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

I'm with PNats fan. Martin pitched better than either Olsen or Mock last season and with the exception of the first inning of his last start, pitched better than they did this Spring.

He throws strikes, unlike Mock. And he doesn't lose his composure when things go bad.

I'll bet he's back. Maybe as long man when it becomes clear that Bergmann is done.


Posted by: arlingtontwb | March 31, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

I figured everyone would be bummed out that Martin didnt make the opening day roster.

I trust Rizzo and the experienced scouts around him, I think they think that J.D. Martin just really isnt meant to be a Major League Starter.

With that said, we will probably see him pitch some games in the big's at some point this season.

I think I would go with Olsen over Mock.

Posted by: Cartaldo | March 31, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Guz starts at 2B today, what does he need to do to beat out Kennedy for the starting gig? Maybe great sense for the Nats to have him on the field - you can't market an $8 bench player, but a useful (and versatile) middle infielder who hits for average (if not obp) and runs well?

The team would likely have to eat at least half of his remaining salary, but if they did he could get a decent prospect package in return.

Posted by: estuartj | March 31, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

+1 for Olsen.
Mock for all his "stuff" just seems like he doesn't have it, whatever it is. I think he might be that AAAA guy forever, unless he maybe figures it out as a reliever.
IMO Olsen has the capacity for at least a few quality 6 inning efforts. Good enough for a 5th starter that will get pushed aside come June.

Posted by: autobits | March 31, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

The didn't release him. Have to assume that they wanted Martin set and ready to go in the Syracuse rotation.

You have to wonder what they are going to do with Atilano with a full bullpen both here and in Syracuse?

Apparently, there are some politics associated with this as Mock is one of Rizzo's pitchers from Arizona. My understanding is that its hard to let go and give up on his prospect. Of course now he has a similar, younger guy in Trevor Holder to focus on.

Posted by: periculum | March 31, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Olsen really shouldn't go North until the 18th if he is chosen. He really needs to stay in extended spring training where its warm, continuing to strengthen the shoulder.

Feels like they are about to pull the trigger on a trade any second now.

Posted by: periculum | March 31, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Makes no sense to get rid of Olsen and I still liked the idea of keeping him in FLA for a couple more weeks but that does not look like the case. I think it's a no brainer keeping Olsen over Mock and I do think we will see Martin soon. Still not sure what they are seeing in Bergman. I guess besides the 5th starter we are looking at competition for utility infield and backup outfield. It's getting close.
On another front, just talked to my "guy" and the gates will open Saturday at 11:00am for season ticket holders (the event ticket is in your packet). They are still working on it but it looks like a Q & A and some other stuff. Also will let us go over to the bullpen and back in just for this game which I like. (cheaper beer)

Posted by: sjm3091 | March 31, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Regarding the #5 starter, two things to keep in mind;
1. A 5th starter is only needed 3 times in April (11th, 20th & 25th)
2. Livo still is still on a MiLB contract so they don't need to activate him till April 9th (or 11th if they swap his spot).

I'm guessing we can expect this Olsen vs Mock thing to go on at least until April 9th with both working out of the bullpen that first week.

Posted by: estuartj | March 31, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

And in May the 5th starter will only have 4 starts (10th, 15th, 20th & 30th) and it's at least possible that the Nats would have Strasburg get his first MLB start in his hometown of San Diego on the 30th.

So all this gnashing of teeth over 6-7 starts? Might as well give Bergmann those starts and just carry and extra reliever for 2 months.

Posted by: estuartj | March 31, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

It's a half-dozens starts, more or less, IF no one gets hurt. Or traded. Or totally bombs. Then he becomes the 4th starter, no?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 31, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

I think you work in a bunch of off days for Strasburg after he's called up. That plus limiting his innings in the minor league starts should allow him to pitch till September before he hits his innings limit.

Posted by: estuartj | March 31, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Guz starts at 2B today, what does he need to do to beat out Kennedy for the starting gig?

Posted by: estuartj | March 31, 2010 12:42 PM

I don't think there's any chance that the club does that to Kennedy. They brought him in to be the everyday 2nd baseman. He had a good '09 and has done perfectly fine this Spring. And 2nd is his natural position.

They are just getting Guz reps at 2nd so he'll be able to fill in there from time to time.

Posted by: Kev29 | March 31, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Apparently it is Olsen.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 31, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 31, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

They are keeping him on, anyway. Still haven't officially announced if he's on the 25, but it looks like he's closer to being effective than Mock.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 31, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Wow... Scott Olsen and Garrett Mock ... Scott Olsen and Garrett Mock ... Scott Olsen and Garrett Mock ... I just can't wait to go see these guys!!! Who needs Strasburg. Nats have Scott Olsen and Garrett Mock !!!!

Posted by: billm32 | March 31, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

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