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Stephen Strasburg's starting point

There is little doubt Stephen Strasburg will begin this year as a minor leaguer, and yet his launching point -- like his bullpen sessions and everything else he does -- remains a dominant topic of discussion. This morning, manager Jim Riggleman explained that the Nationals will base their decision not on his spring performance, but on how best to promote his development. In doing so, he seemed to suggest Strasburg will begin the year in the minors.

"It's going to come down to more of a philosophical decision more so than a performance decision," Riggleman said. "We anticipate he's going to throw good. It's going to come down to, what do we think is best for Stephen Strasburg as an organization? I've been very impressed, and I'm anticipating continuing to be impressed.

"I'm not trying to dodge the question at all, but I think we're going to be impressed with a lot of guys. Some of them aren't going to make the club."

The Nationals are convinced desperation will not determine where Strasburg begins the year. They're comfortable that their stable of potential starters will allow them to keep Strasburg on his schedule, independent of the needs of their rotation.

"I think it's where he's at and what we want to do," Riggleman said. "I think we've got so many names now. Livan [Hernnandez] is here. [Miguel] Batista is here. [Craig] Stammen and [J.D.] Martin. [Scott] Olsen, [John] Lannan, [Jason] Marquis. It's not like we have to have him here now because we don't have any other starters."

Riggleman did not rule out Strasburg heading north with the Nationals. But he also said if and when the club determines he'll start in the minors, Strasburg will no longer participate in major league camp. Riggleman also intimated Strasburg will be better prepared once he faces minor league competition in an actual game as opposed to major league hitters in spring exhibitions.

"It's just not the same," Riggleman said. "It's just a different animal for that guy to go out there and the adrenaline flowing on both sides. In spring training, there's going to be some hitters who, their agenda is 'I want to see some pitches.' "

Underneath all of this is another good reason to keep Strasburg shelved for the first couple months. If the Nationals wait until roughly June, they can pause the clock on when he becomes arbitration eligible and, eventually, when he becomes eligible for free agency.

By Adam Kilgore  |  March 2, 2010; 10:39 AM ET
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Next: A quick and not very uplifting Jesus Flores update


I've got my opening day ticket....

I don't guess he'll start then, but the only decent reason for delaying his call-up would be the arbitration/free agency clock. I have some question about the notion that you take it slow and easy and to protect his arm, rather than face the Kerry Wood situation. It's not like he won't be pitching innings in the minors. Does anyone think he's going to be holding back when he throws in the minors, to protect his arm? I suppose, if you're as overpowering as he's going to be at the minor league level, he might not have to work as hard and to throw as many pitches. Just not seeing how keeping in the minors will help.

Seems to me that the biggest thing might be on the back end -- pitching in September. That's when the innings will take their biggest toll, no? What if the Nats are in a playoff race and he's pitching well?

Posted by: fischy | March 2, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Please send him to Potomac so I can see him here in Myrtle Beach in April

Posted by: SCNatsFan | March 2, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Maybe it's easier to control his innings and even skip starts without having to worry about the rest of the major league staff absorbing the brunt. Who cares if he lobs only 4 or 5 innings in the minors, even if he's dominating. In the majors the ramifications seem bigger across the board. The schedule is relentless in the majors. Hold him back. We've waited this long already.

Posted by: longterm | March 2, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

I'd still weigh in on the side of caution with Strasburg. He threw what, around 120IP last year, between SDState & the AFL? Start him in the minors, with about 150IP as a cap target, and no start over 100 pitches. If he's performing well & someone on the big club is struggling, or "day-to-day" in June, then think about bringing him up. If he stumbles a little in the minors, then let him work through it in POT, HAR, or SYR, not in Washington.

Posted by: BinM | March 2, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Is there an exact date the Nats have in June after which they can bring SS up and not loose a year towards him becoming a free agent?

Posted by: twinbrook | March 2, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Wait, let me understand this. The Nats paid this guy millions of dollars to pitch and now he's not going to pitch, except in the minors? Why didn't they pay him minor league money and then they can develop him as long as they want like all the rest of the bums they've had for years. This guy is supposed to be ready and the only way to know what he brings is to put him out there. Not having him in the starting rotation is gonna hurt the Nats because they don't have anyone that will scare you now. Half the season will be gone before you can see this guy and what if the Nats start off slow and be out of the race early (like usual). Play the guy at Nats stadium!

Posted by: wspinks1 | March 2, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

There is little chance this team will be fighting for the playoffs in 2010 so why risk it.

The only reason to trot him out there is for more ticket sales as I have to believe like the way he was marketed at San Diego State and probably at the PNats will be Strasburg Night at the Ballpark and your attendence spikes up.

The Nats can pitch him June, July and August and start shutting him down then to get his innings in that 160 to 170 range. That should get him about 25 starts in 2010 between the Minors and the Nationals.

Posted by: dmacman88 | March 2, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Twin_brook: The situation is somewhat confusing. Here's how I understand it: Basically, the date is established after the season and it's based on the average amount of time first-year players spend in the majors. It's inexact, but it falls in the late-May, early-June area.

Posted by: Adam_Kilgore | March 2, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

The arbitration/free agency clock is the whole ball game here, and I'd be shocked (and very disappointed) if Rizzo doesn't make the decision on that basis. wspinks, look at it this way -- would you rather have Strasburg pitch in Nats Park this April or May, or for an extra year in 2016 rather than heading off to the Yankees or BoSox that year? The answer is obvious to me, and I'll gladly suffer through a slightly more painful beginning of this year to make it happen. And who knows, if the Nats win the World Series behind Strasburg from 2014-2016, maybe the Lerners will shell out the big bucks to keep him in Washington... A guy can dream right?

Posted by: Section222 | March 2, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Stras should spend a good portion of 2010. The organization should treat this kid very carefully and bring him up later in the summer if he's ready. Think 2011 and beyond. The main goal shouldn't be major league starts but building arm strength and learning the craft. I'd like to see him get some big league action to get used to it and get the debut over. But hopefully the team will continue to be over-cautious with his workload.

The 2010 season isn't going to be much different whether he starts 5 or 20 games in DC. It's all about '11 and thereafter

Posted by: hoo93 | March 2, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Hey - Who's goin to play the role of Crash Davis at Potomac? - haha

Bull Durham - What a great movie

Posted by: Nats1924 | March 2, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Fyi...Anybody on here who has been following this Strasburg situation has to watch Bull Durham

Posted by: Nats1924 | March 2, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

D Martin ... even Boz ignores him ... just watch he'll be in there ... and then I - will - be- insufferable ... bwahahahahah ...

Posted by: periculum | March 2, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I would be just fine if he does not don a Washington Nationals jersey at all in 2010, not even as a September callup watching the game from the 'pen.

Posted by: JohninMpls | March 2, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Why do people post their own laughter? Here's a hint: if you think you have to cue people in that it's supposed to be funny, it's not funny.

@Section222 -- I whole-heartedly agree about slowing down his free agency clock. I was just making the point that if he's going to be be called up in June, the team probably won't be saving a whole lot of wear and tear on his arm -- which is also a concern for someone that young.

Posted by: fischy | March 2, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

I think everyone needs to stop worrying about when Strasburg comes or doesn't come ... there are more important things like Mark Z's point earlier today:

"If the Nationals are going to have any chance of doing something out of this season beyond escaping the NL East cellar, they're going to have to come out of the gates firing in April. Unfortunately, the cards are going to be severely stacked against them."

My feeling was they needed a true ace in that rotation to go with Lannan and Marquis to make this happen. And not leave it up to Strasburg, Storen and the walking wounded. That just isn't going to wash-ing-ton in the NL East.

Posted by: periculum | March 2, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse


"bwahahahahaha" is my being insufferable when JD Martin makes the rotation on sheer guts and determination.

Posted by: periculum | March 2, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

This comes under the "Evil Laughter" exception rule.
Anyhow, I thought it was funny.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 2, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

As for SS aka Jesus and when he should be brought up. I found the perfect day on the schedule. Those dates are either July 9-11 against the Giants. So what the significance you ask? Aside from Jesus vs. Cain or Lincecum, the Nats are running their Christmas in July promotion those games. Just think Jesus showing up on the Christmas (in July of course). The Nats are asking for toy donations those days, the games would be a sell out and the toy bins could be full for Tiny Tim and friends.

Posted by: hansenjo | March 2, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

that's pretty good hansenjo

Posted by: Rogueone | March 2, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

I believe that is to be found under Section 47, Paragraph 7, of Constituency Order Number 438476.


This comes under the "Evil Laughter" exception rule.
Anyhow, I thought it was funny.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 2, 2010 1:35 PM

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 2, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Where should he start in the Majors? I think even High A (Potomac), he would blow the competition away.

Posted by: CALSGR8 | March 3, 2010 7:18 AM | Report abuse

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