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Strasburg live-blog: Morning edition

12:50 p.m.: I just spoke to Nationals GM Mike Rizzo about Strasburg's performance. Here is what he said:

On what he saw out of Strasburg: "He's doing the things he needs to do to progress to the next level. You can see from the stretch he's gathering himself a little more, and not losing any velocity, which is something we were worried about. He's about 1.24, 1.25 [seconds to home plate], which is where we want him to be. He also handles the bat. Offensively, he knows what he's doing.... The stuff is solid, and the little nuances he's getting a feel for. The changeup has come a long way, even since spring training. That's a real weapon for him now."

On what the future holds: "He's scheduled to pitch five days from now, here in Double-A." Beyond that? "I don't know exactly where we're going to be next. But there would not be any damage done if he has a couple more starts at Double-A."

11:58 a.m.: Actually, I spoke too soon. Strasburg's day is finished after five innings. His limit was 85 pitches or five innings, whichever came first. So let's total it up: His pitching line for the day goes 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K. For the season: 12 1/3 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 17 K. And his ERA is 0.73. I'm thinking one or two more starts here, and it's on to Syracuse.

11:51 a.m.: Ho-hum. Another 1-2-3 inning. One more strikeout, Strasburg's sixth of the game. (Poor Tuffy Gosewisch. The Phillies' catcher has seen six pitches so far in two plate appearances, both of them strikeouts. The first time, Strasburg buckled his knees with a curveball, and this time he froze him with a 98-mph fastball. I think Strasburg just set the kid's development back by a full year.) Strasburg also battled back after falling behind 3-0 to Keoni DeRenne, getting him to fly to center on a 3-1 fastball -- just the second ball to leave the infield all day against Strasburg. With Strasburg now at 68 pitches (47 strikes), I'm guessing the sixth will be his last inning.

11:34 a.m.: In the fourth inning, Strasburg gave up his first walk of the game, but erased it one batter later with a double-play grounder. He hasn't been able throw his changeup for strikes today as effectively as in past starts. But one more strikeout gives him five for the game, and for the season (totaling 11 1/3 innings) his strikeout-to-walk ratio is a healthy 16 to 3. And for what it's worth, his season ERA is 0.79.

11:16 a.m.: Strasburg had to work a little bit in the third inning, giving up his first hit, a one-out single fisted into shallow center field by Phillies second baseman Keoni DeRenne. (Fans booed Senators center fielder Bradley Coon for not diving, but he had no chance.) A two-out throwing error by Senators third baseman Adam Fox extended the inning, but Strasburg got Freddy Galvis to ground out to end the inning. Earlier, with the speedy DeRenne on first, Strasburg showed off his pickoff move and did a nice job of holding the runner. We have yet to see a runner attempt a stolen base against Strasburg this season. Strasburg threw 17 pitches in the inning, 14 of them for strikes, and is at 39 pitches (30 strikes) for the game -- that's an extraordinary strike percentage. He also got two more strikeouts, giving him four for the game. One other note I forgot to mention earlier: Sean Rooney is catching him for the first time this season; his previous two starts were caught by Jhonatan Solano.

11:01 a.m.: Strasburg just failed in his first attempt at a sacrifice bunt this season. He came to the plate with two on and one out in the bottom of the second, and tapped his bunt right back to the pitcher, Yohan Flande, who threw to third for the out. I have a feeling he's going to be subjected to extra bunting practice Thursday in New Britain.

10:54 a.m.: Very impressive inning for Strasburg: three up, three down, 12 pitches, nine strikes. Two strikeouts and a weak pop-up. He got four swinging strikes in the inning -- two on fastballs, one on a curve, one on a changeup. He fell behind 2-0 to the third batter of the inning, Phillies third baseman Brandon Pinckney (both on borderline ball calls by home plate umpire Joel Hospodka), but got Pinckney to pop to shortstop on a 95-mph fastball. Strasburg is at 22 pitches through two innings; he's on a pitch-limit of around 85 today.

10:38 a.m.: Strasburg threw nothing but fastballs -- all of them between 95 and 98 mph on the stadium radar gun -- during a quick, 1-2-3 first inning, needing just 10 pitches to retire the side on two ground balls and a foul out. I also saw something I don't believe I've ever seen before: When Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis tried to bunt his way on base against a 97-mph fastball, he fouled it back about 20 rows. By the way, by now Strasburg's body clock has adjusted to east coast time, but as I write this it is 7:40 a.m. San Diego time.

10:20 a.m.: Greetings from Metro Bank Park in Harrisburg, where we've got Stephen Strasburg and the Harrisburg Senators preparing to face the Reading Phillies. It feels odd to be settling in for a baseball game at this hour, but apparently it's not uncommon for midweek Eastern League games to start at 10:30 a.m. -- they call it "Kids Day" and schoolkids from all over the area are bused in. Pretty cool field trip, if you ask me.

Nationals execs Stan Kasten and Mike Rizzo are in attendance, having driven up from Washington this morning -- impressive, given the fact last night's Nationals game took some 3 1/2 hours to play.

One other quick Senators note before we get into our live blog of Strasburg's start: Closer Drew Storen has strep throat and was ordered to stay home last night and again today. But I'm told he will be on the team bus when it departs for the five-hour drive to New Britain, Conn., after today's game.

By Dave Sheinin  |  April 21, 2010; 10:16 AM ET
 
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Comments

BTW, game is live on Reading Phillies radio network, available on the net at readingphillies.com. Click multimedia, then audio.

Posted by: JamesWebster | April 21, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

BTW, game is live on Reading Phillies radio network, available on the net at readingphillies.com. Click multimedia, then audio.

Posted by: JamesWebster | April 21, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

I love that the "Senators" are a Nats farm team.

All these years later, I still have a strong reflexive reaction when I see "Senators" in a score or headline.

I just hit my forehead when I realize . . .
Oh yeah, Harrisburg, or
Oh yeah, hockey, or
Oh yeah, healthcare legislation.

Let's go Senators, and let's go Strasburg.

Posted by: KenNat | April 21, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Hey Gang-A carry over from the last thread-yup, yup and yup, 506. A latent fear, though, is that with increased media attention, baseball will be ESPend to spectacle-a place for buffoons to use the game as a vehicle for themselves...or sumpthin' like that-I think you get my drift.
And on a note of curiosity-hey, Peri-I seem to detect a ton of animosity directed at you, both here and elsewhere. Now, while I don't always agree with you, I look forward to your posts-usually sharp, insightful...knowledgeable. What gives-are they all just pals of yours having fun razzing you?Any who, sorry to bring up "personality" stuff here-I usually try and avoid it. Just wondering.....and keep on posting-especially the longer pieces....
Go Nats!!!!

Posted by: zendo | April 21, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

No worries. He'll fit right in, as our MLB pitchers are (cough) not always adept at laying down bunts. :-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 21, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

@James Webster - thanks for the radio link!

FRANK 20

Posted by: tradervic1313 | April 21, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Would you give the Score once in a while?
Great posts, otherwise.


Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | April 21, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

So have we figured out an exact date in May/June that the Nationals can call him up and gain the extra year pre-arbitration then free agency?

Maybe Rizzo and Kasten there is a clue that they might not wait that long.

Posted by: Kev29 | April 21, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

1 - 0 Nats in the 5th. Strasburg is out of the game name having given up 1 hit with 6 K's.

Posted by: tradervic1313 | April 21, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Too bad they don't have the cajones to bring him up like the Reds did with their first round pick of last year. The guy's already won two games for them. Rizzo = no balls

Posted by: Brue | April 21, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Wow- I didn't pay attention enough to realize that this was a morning game. I am content to have missed this, since he did so well.

+1/2St.

Posted by: kevincostello | April 21, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Have you noticed the lineup for the Chiefs? If this is representative of AAA hitters, what's the point in moving him up? Better umpires?

Posted by: TheophilusS | April 21, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Nice stat line! Can't wait to see him in June at Nats Park!

Posted by: dmacman88 | April 21, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Watchig him must have reminded Rizzo alot of Marquis and Lannan's starts.

If the guys drank on the drive there.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | April 21, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Yes, clearly we need to be emulating what the Reds do...

Brue should be nominated for Donk of the Week.

Posted by: mclaughlinmu | April 21, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Rizzo = smary guy. Why bring him for 6-8 starts and lose a year of free agency?

Posted by: jfromPG | April 21, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Hey Rizzo...one or two more Strasburg starts for the Senators then up to Syracuse ??? Can he take Storen with him ????

PLEASE !!!!!! 2 blowouts in 3 nights...got to nip this stuff in the bud.

Posted by: outrbnksm | April 21, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

He will be up sooner, rather than later... they need to start filling the stands. they are what 7-6 and they are averaging 15K per game i na 40K seat stadium. I took my son on Friday night, got great seats then went Sat afternoon for the start of a bachelor party and there were more people i nthe Bullpen party area then the stands (Oh yeah, paid $8 for an upper level seat but sat behind the bullpen :)

Posted by: rvanags | April 21, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Kev, there is no "exact date" except in hindsight, at the end of the year. It's based on what other guys do, which hasn't happened yet. Calculus, not calender.
Memorial Day is probably conservatively safe.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 21, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Kev29: There is no set date.

Please see this article from Dave Shenin: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/19/AR2010031904323_2.html

---

Here, in a nutshell, is how Super Two status works: The top 17 percent of players who have fallen short of three full years of service time in a given year become eligible for arbitration as Super Twos. There is no predetermined date when a player gains or loses Super Two status; it depends on the service times of every other player in that service class. But usually, a team can safely block a player from gaining Super Two status by keeping him in the minors until late May of his rookie season.

(The San Francisco Giants famously miscalculated on this in 2007, calling up Tim Lincecum on May 6, which wound up being about a week too soon to prevent his Super Two status in 2010. As a result, Lincecum will make $9 million this year in salary/signing bonus as a Super Two, instead of the $700,000 or so the team could have paid him as a zero-to-three player, had they kept him down an extra week in 2007. We'll return to the Lincecum example in a moment.)

If the Nationals keep Strasburg in the minors long enough to prevent him from reaching Super Two status after 2012, he would be considered a zero-to-three player in 2013, saving the Nationals a lot of money. This, too, happens all the time and is seen as smart management. The Baltimore Orioles did it last year with Matt Wieters, who is to catching what Strasburg is to pitching, and whose call-up came May 29.

But there is an additional catch in Strasburg's case because his contract is a major league contract. By rule, a player under team control cannot receive a pay cut of more than 20 percent from the previous year. Here is where Strasburg's 2012 compensation -- that $4.875 million figure -- comes into play. Because of this rule, the Nationals would have to pay Strasburg at least $3.9 million in 2013 (that's 80 percent of $4.875 million) if he fails to attain Super Two status.
---

(To delay free agency for another year, they only need to wait 20 days)

Posted by: cassander | April 21, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

"(Poor Tuffy Gosewisch. The Phillies' catcher has seen six pitches so far in two plate appearances, both of them strikeouts. The first time, Strasburg buckled his knees with a curveball, and this time he froze him with a 98-mph fastball. I think Strasburg just set the kid's development back by a full year.)"

Serves him right, with a name like that. What is he, a ballplayer or a kitten?

Posted by: nunof1 | April 21, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

And bringing him up won't help attendance that much, anyway--certainly not enough to offset what it will cost them in 2016.
Most of the attendance isn't walkups, it's season tickets, and those are in the toilet this year no matter when they bring him up. They'll get a bump on days he starts at home, unless he loses his first few, in which case they won't. Bringing him up today probably wouldn't keep them in contention, which is what it would take to affect the turnstile count later in the year--and even then, it wouldn't happen until later.
It's April. It's chilly a lot of the time. They lost 205 games in a frontrunner town. SS can't change any of that.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 21, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

As Doug Harris said Strasburg is just fine exactly where is in what is known as a pitcher's league. As it is Harrisburg is in last place due to a lack of offense and decent defense early on.

If you look at the Harrisburg staff, it looks like a Nats major league staff of the future. Whereas Syracuse seems to be used as a place to park veteran depth. As far as I know there are no "true" prospects on the Syracuse staff at this point. All are past the age where they would still be considered as such.

Posted by: periculum | April 21, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

...and just how many people age going to pay to see a start by Jason Marquis or Scott Olsen?

A SS start will bring a lot of fans to the stadium who are not necessarily Nats fans. Pencil SS's name name in place of Olsen and you will likely have a bump of 25k additional people in the seats-that is a huge difference in direct revenue not to mention the additional food, hats etc that will be sold. Add in the buzz surrounding the starts in the whole baseball universe, the increased chance for a win and continued .500 ball and the Nats will gain considerably by having SS here earlier. Whatever SS is learning by decimating AA level hitters is negligible and certainly can be learned at the major league level. (In anticipation of the argument about the extra money, its not my money and I would hope the Lerners would sign him to an extension well before the option years are concluded anyways.)

Posted by: driley | April 21, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

I'm certainly willing to be proved wrong, but I think 25,000 is wildly optimistic. 10,000, if the weather is good, for his first start, maybe.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 21, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Unless they're playing the Marlins, or Rockies, or some other non-draw.
If they're playing the Cubs, O's, a few other teams, they mostly sell out anyway.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 21, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

OMG, could the news of another great performance be any more tantalizing? I feel like a kid waiting for Christmas to arrive.

Posted by: shanks1 | April 21, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Between now and June, they host the Dodgers, Braves, Marlins, Mets, and O's, and the first homestand in June, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.

The Mets and O's are good draws here normally, but that's probably all, out of that bunch. So there's a good chance, whenever he does finally debut, of seeing just how good a draw his first start will be.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 21, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

I think it's unlikely they'd have his first start on the road, so really, I think we're looking at the Reds series. I guess there's a chance they'd risk it for the May 17-19 Mets series, but I doubt it. Baltimore is here May 21-23, and that seems unlikely just because they'll probably sell most of that weekend anyway, so even if 10,000 is reasonably optimistic, why waste it?
June 4-5-6, weekend series, vs. the Reds.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 21, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Strasburg's home debut will be a sellout, just like his milb debut in Altoona and his home debut in Harrisburg. As long as he pitches well, I imagine Nat Park will see attendance of around 30k whenever he pitches, with more sellouts possible if he does something truly eyepopping.

Posted by: cassander | April 21, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

I would love for SS to debut during the Reds series, particularly the Saturday game since that's the one on my 20-game plan. So Mr. Rizzo, if you could arrange that for me, I'd be really grateful. :-)

Posted by: Juan-John1 | April 21, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Juan-John, perhaps we could get the Reds to call up Aroldis Chapman to face SS on that Saturday. I'd pay to see that.

Posted by: BobLHead | April 21, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the helpful info above, fellas. And...

---

He will be up sooner, rather than later... they need to start filling the stands.

Posted by: rvanags | April 21, 2010 1:27 PM

Fill the stands so they can make a $41 million operating profit instead of $40? I don't think they're going to advance the progress of the franchise star for a quick buck, but you never know. They'll just look forward to the Mets, Phillies and Cubs coming to town.

This year's attendance sucks because the season ticket base continues to dwindle. 205 losses in two years will do that to people. Now if they keep playing half decent ball, call up Stras in June, wait for schools to get out - then they will see a slight uptick in attendance.

Posted by: Kev29 | April 21, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

>Yes, clearly we need to be emulating what the Reds do...

Brue should be nominated for Donk of the Week.

Posted by: mclaughlinmu

Have you seen their rotation? Wait til Chapman shows up. Everybody throws hard. No 'contact' pitchers. Btw, they were being picked to go to the playoffs this year on MLB TV as well as some major publications. You need to pay more attention. Move Strasburg up you wimps!!!

Posted by: Brue | April 21, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

These attendance monitors just don't get it - the less they draw, the more money they get from the other teams. The Brewers (per Dibble) just got an 80 MILLION DOLLAR CHECK from revenue sharing. How much you wanna bet they say they can't afford to sign Prince Fielder? And how much do you wanna bet that a majority of fans will believe that they don't have the money? They're talking about a MINIMUM salary floor for MLB, that's how bad it is. The MARLINS had the third highest positive revenue in the entire league.

Posted by: Brue | April 21, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Volquez's injuries - and now suspension - have been a kick in the tail for the Reds. Otherwise, their pitching is kind of promising.

Posted by: Kev29 | April 21, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

I have watched every game this year, including 3 at the park. One of the 3 was the 10-run first inning travesty. So I really, really, really want some decent pitchers. I can hardly wait for SS to arrive, but they need to keep him on the farm until late May/early June. I would rather have him an extra year after he is seasoned than watch his debut 6 weeks early. It just makes sense. But I am certainly getting tired of watching several of our starters pitch...

Posted by: NatsFly | April 21, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Cute, nunof. And here I thought that the name might be indicative of toughness. :-)

And NatsFly, I'd like some pitchers, too (as opposed to, say, belly-itchers).

---
Serves him right, with a name like that. What is he, a ballplayer or a kitten?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 21, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

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