The wait is just about over to watch Stephen Strasburg
Tuesday morning, presuming he has not changed his routine since college, Stephen Strasburg will arrive in the home clubhouse at Space Coast Stadium and act like any other pitcher.
"I don't know of any superstitions he has," said Erik Castro, Strasburg's catcher at San Diego State. "He doesn't do anything out of the ordinary. Pretty much, he does anything a normal pitcher would do."
And then he'll climb the mound and any normalcy about him will cease. Aside from the hordes who crowded around his early bullpen sessions, Strasburg has blended into Nationals spring training, a quiet rookie who rarely speaks if not tacitly invited into a conversation by a veteran. "All ears," Manager Jim Riggleman said.
But tomorrow, Strasburg, for the first time against a team comprised partly of major leaguers, will unveil the right arm that earned him a $15.1 million bonus, that has drawn the comparisons to Nolan Ryan and Dwight Gooden that make him queasy.
It has become the marquee event of spring training, with the Nationals and otherwise, and his teammates are curious, too. "I cannot wait until 1:05," Scott Olsen said. They'll see a new piece of who he is. Drew Storen, another Nationals draft pick, played with Strasburg in the Arizona Fall League, making him one of the Nationals who has seen him pitch in a game.
"He's a bulldog out there," Storen said. "He's one of those guys you like having on your team, because you know he's a competitor. He's so laid-back otherwise, you don't necessarily see that. You'll kind of see a different side of him. I don't know if he'll say he has a different side, but you'll definitely see he turns it up a notch on the mound. It's pretty fun to watch."
So far, teammates have mostly seen the shy and quiet slice Strasburg's personality, the shy kid sitting at his locker, in full uniform an hour before practice, drinking yellow Powerade and eating a bowl of oatmeal and blueberries.
On those occasions Strasburg actually climbed a mound and pitched, there were glimpses into his competitiveness. "He walks that line," Olsen said. "When he gets on that mound, it's like, 'I have a cannon for a right arm, and I'm going to show you all.' "
And still, no matter how impressive Strasburg is in this and his next few starts, the overwhelming likelihood is that he will begin in the minor leagues. Strasburg may well have a one-in-a-billion right arm, but there is more to his profession than throwing. The Nationals want Strasburg to be able to perform every last nuance - pitching from the stretch, fielding the position, holding runners on - with a big-league proficiency. When the Nationals call up Strasburg, they want a full-blown major league pitcher who is there to stay for good and not, to quote one Nationals employee, a "sideshow."
Strasburg has drawn massive attention. One day last week, two sports magazines with his picture on the cover rested on a clubhouse table, and then outside a CBS Evening News camera crew followed him around. Strasburg chose not to speak with reporters today, but he has grown more comfortable with the demand for his time and his signature.
"I think he's learning day by day," said Castro, now an Astros minor leaguer. "In college when it hit, it hit him like a ton of bricks. There would be hundreds of people outside our locker room. It was a little annoying, he'd get frustrated. It overwhelmed him. He's handled it a little better. I think he's handling the best way he can. He's handling it the right way."
Castro referenced Strasburg's marriage this offseason as a positive factor. Storen said, if anything, Strasburg has actually loosened up in the clubhouse compared to the fall league. On the eve of his first start, with so much swarming around him, Strasburg is at ease. As Riggleman said, "He's just in a good place in his life."
And tomorrow, the league will finally see first-hand what the fuss is for.
"You kind of realize," Castro said, "this kid's one in a million."
March 8, 2010; 7:02 PM ET
Save & Share: Previous: Breaking down another bad day of Nationals pitching
Next: Stephen Strasburg, the debut and the polls
Posted by: Ghost7 | March 8, 2010 7:22 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: NatsNut | March 8, 2010 7:47 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: wahoo2x | March 8, 2010 8:09 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: periculum | March 8, 2010 8:16 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: periculum | March 8, 2010 8:19 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 8, 2010 8:54 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 8, 2010 8:55 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: BinM | March 8, 2010 8:57 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: lowcountry | March 8, 2010 9:11 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: BinM | March 8, 2010 9:18 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: BinM | March 8, 2010 9:39 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: hats4bats | March 8, 2010 11:38 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: DCSec112 | March 9, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.