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More from Syracuse on Stephen Strasburg

Know this: Stephen Strasburg is having fun. He said so last night, grinning. He wants very badly to be in the major leagues, and there can be doubt he belongs there. But one terrific thing about Strasburg is that he really, really loves to pitch. He's lucky to be so good at something he likes so much, and that enthusiasm has not ebbed even as he makes a mockery of the International League.

"He comes in here with a smile on his face," Syracuse outfielder Kevin Mench said.

Strasburg also comes there to work. He has impressed Chiefs Manager Trent Jewett with his ability to process and implement instruction. This week, Syracuse pitching coach Greg Booker and Nationals pitching coordinator Spin Williams talked to Strasburg about working in more change-ups. And, voila, he worked in more change-ups, quite clearly to great effect.

"I've never thought things were too hard," Strasburg said. "I've never thought things were too easy. You've got to go at it, especially in this game, with a professional attitude. You got to really manage the highs and the lows. There really going to be there, at some point in your career. I'm really just trying to work on improving my games, at the same time helping this Chiefs team win some games."

Strasburg's most impressive moment last night may have come not on one of his seven strikeouts, but rather during his fourth-inning showdown with Norfolk third baseman Josh Bell, another star-in-waiting. He pitched Bell backwards, starting with an 81-mph curve (called strike) and an 89-mph change that dove viciously (swinging strike). Strasburg then threw a 98-mph fastball under Bell's chin, matching the fastest speed he reached all night. Bell took another ball and gamely fouled off two pitches before popping a 98-mph heater into shallow left.

He impressed the veterans on the other. Joey Gathright said Strasburg was the best first-year pitcher he's ever seen. Jeff Salazer talked about Strasburg becoming "an ambassador" for the game someday.

"The fact that he gathers information so well, and that he's so focused on making himself as good as he can, I think that's a tribute to a lot," Jewett said. "The young man's upbringing. What the organization has done with him."

Jewett won't have much time left with Strasburg. Only one thing has been frustrating. He was asked if it's hard to take out Strasburg when he's throwing a no-hitter. "Damn right it is," he said.

FROM THE POST

The Nationals are all of a sudden a team on the rise, Boz writes.

Stephen Strasburg no-hit the Norfolk Tides over six innings, the latest evidence his talents are too big for the minor leagues.

Roger Bernadina had a career day as the Nationals rebounded again and took the series from the Mets with a 6-4 victory, Mark Viera writes.

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Syracuse 4, Norfolk 0: Drew Storen allowed no runs on one hit and two walks in 1 1/ 3 innings. Josh Whitesell ripped a three-RBI triple.

Harrisburg 7, Altoona, 0: Danny Espinosa went 2 for 3 with a home run, three runs, a walk and three RBI. Erik Arnesen allowed three hits and a walk in six shutout innings, lowering his ERA to 2.43.

Winston-Salem 12, Potomac 8: Derek Norris went 3 for 5 with an RBI and two runs.

West Virginia 13, Hagerstown 9: Sean Nicol went 4 for 5 with two doubles and three RBI.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

Roger Bernadina's breakout was a long time coming, Mark Zuckerman writes. (Note the ace photography there, too.)

Fire Jim Bowden gives the Nationals a chance because the National League really isn't all that great.

It is Stephen Strasburg's world and baseball is living in it, Donnie Webb of the Post-Standard writes.

By Adam Kilgore  |  May 13, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Stephen Strasburg  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Washington Nationals Q&A with Tracee Hamilton, 9:30 a.m.
Next: Stephen Strasburg's next start is May 18

Comments

I didn't watch last night's Chiefs game... but I watched the first one Strasburg pitch... man, every fastball was upper 90s at the knees... every curve with 1 strike was a knee buckler hitting the strike zone at the knees... every 2 strike curve ball was just off the plate and low for a swinging strike 3...

This may be the understatement of the year, but I can't wait to see how that stuff plays out in the majors... with a SP ace in the fold (and Storen in the bullpen), this team's pitching staff will look completely different...

Posted by: Ghost7 | May 13, 2010 8:17 AM | Report abuse

It seems as if Norris is back!! I hope Bernadina can keep it Colorado is a big test, the Rockies hve been unkind to the NATS in the past.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | May 13, 2010 8:21 AM | Report abuse

A 5-4 record would be more than acceptable on this road trip given the competition,believe it or not the series that worries me is the O's hapless as they might be they've got talent they just haven't jelled yet,anyway that's thinking way ahead let's play the Rockies,happy for Roger Bernadina 2hr's a game saving catch,that's what we've been waiting for.Livo draws Jiminez again, friday i think, Udaldo lost his last start had to do a double take on that one, looking forward to this series LET'S GO NATS !!!!.

Posted by: dargregmag | May 13, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Adam, as a fellow native New Englander, have you looked up Roger Clemens's the minor-league stats from 1983 and 1984 before he made his MLB debut with the Red Sox? Strasburg is right on par with him at the same stages in their careers, if not just slightly better.

Posted by: ericp331 | May 13, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

"Strasburg then threw a 98-mph fastball under Bell's chin, matching the fastest speed he reached all night."
__________

I wish some of the Nat's pitchers would learn this pitch to get the opposing batters off the plate.
Is it June, yet?

Posted by: dorseylaw | May 13, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

In case it hasn't been said enough: Thank you, Tony Gwynn. Not just for carefully tending to that amazing right arm, but for teaching Strasburg about professionalism.

Posted by: Bethesdangit1 | May 13, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

I'm wondering about the math here. We all at least dimly recall the analysis here earlier that keeping Stras down through May would give the Nats another year on the arbitration/free agency clocks, saving I believe it was somewhere between $13 and $16 million in....was it the 5th or the 6th year?

I'm sure we all saw J-Max's comment about the feeling among Nats players that they'd be in first place if Stras and Storen were up. So -- how many games will the Nats lose this month because they don't have Stras and Storen? It's not just Stras' 5 or 6 starts, and not even the games that Storen might have held on to, like Tuesday's game in NY. Because, on Wednesday, Riggleman left in Stammen longer than he might have because the bullpen was tired out from his pulling Olson too soon the day before. Then, there's the ace factor -- the way facing a guy like Strasburg early in a series might mess up the other team's hitters over the rest of the series.

This surprises all of us, but the Nats are a contending team. The way the Nats are playing, the delay might cost the Nats at least 4 and maybe as much 8-10 games and a playoff spot.

So, not having Stras is costing the Nats somewhere between 20-25,000 tickets in his starts. Let's say that's 2-3 home starts. Some of those tickets will be the $5 dollar variety, but they're also going to sell all those empty President's club seats. Plus, if the team is up with the Phillies in a pennant race, they sell more tickets to all games. If they have a couple of playoff games, they'd sell over 90,000 tickets at playoff prices -- say an average of $100/ ticket, that's $9 million just for those games. Then, you have to add back in the lost sales from delaying Stras and Storen until June -- Strasburg's own starts, and the spillover sales that won't happen because the Nats aren't generating the excitement they could be.

What looked like a no-brainer sound financial decision is starting to look less certain.... Yes, the Nats are building the Strasburg phenomenon to fever-pitch. They've guaranteed sellout crowds when he comes up. However, if he was winning games in the majors -- pitching like Curt Schilling thinks he can, saying he has a chance to be the best pitcher in the majors when he comes up -- they'd sell out more of those games. I'm beginning to think the Nats should roll the dice and call him up now.

Posted by: fischy | May 13, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Between the Dukes comments and the Stasburg stuff, Justin Maxwell should stop yapping to the press. Especially since he's an unproven minor leaguer.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | May 13, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

It's getting harder and harder to stay reservedly optimistic about the guy.

Posted by: JohninMpls | May 13, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

fischy, what about the increased exposure in the national media when Strasburg is called up? You can bet the Nats would get more than a game or two on ESPN.

That has to translate to dollars and cents somehow, right?

(Of course, I'm talking about the increase in exposure for the Nats team, not for Strasburg, whom the media couldn't possibly cover more.)

Posted by: JohninMpls | May 13, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

"It's getting harder and harder to stay reservedly optimistic about the guy."

Who, Maxwell?

Posted by: nunof1 | May 13, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

@fischy - more so than the money, it's the extra year we retain his rights. so if you comparing the 3-4 wins he might get us this year you have to compare it to the wins he might get us over a full season.

Posted by: sjt1455 | May 13, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

I actually think the decision to keep Strasburg down is as much about the innings as it is about the dollars. Last night is case in point - there is no way he comes out of the game after six innings with a no-hitter in the big leagues.

No-hitters aside, this calculus is going to affect every big league game he is going to have the chance to win. What would we say if Riggleman pulled him in the 7th for pitch count and brought in Bruney instead? This scenario is effectively what happened to Prior - the Cubs were winning the games he was pitching and so logic dictated to pitch him as long as he could go. You saw the opposite happen with Joba Chamberlain - and witness the frustration of Yankee fans who couldn't understand why he was only pitching five innings. They preferred him in the bullpen because he "semmingly" wasn't an effective starter.

Do we really shut-down Strasburg in Spetember if we are in the play-off hunt? It is a question that I am glad that I won't have to answer.

Posted by: lowcountry | May 13, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

@fischy: Interesting analysis re the true costs of holding Strasburg in the minors. Anyone hear Dempsey's remark during last nite's O's game that if he were a Nationals season ticket holder he'd be furious because the management has an obligation to put the best team on the field that it can?

I still am willing to give management the benefit of the doubt on this point, especially since, by now, we're only talking about 2 weeks.

But I think -- and I've been saying this for over a week -- that the arguments for not bringing up Storen now are much weaker, the short-term need is more pressing and the help he can provide in more games than Strasburg over the same period of time is more immediate.

Great game yesterday. As Riggleman said, one game is not a breakout, but if Bernadina can step up in a way that JMax did not, it would be huge, huge, huge. I still hold out hope that Bernadina and JMax will turn into a platoon that would (1) give the Nats a strong fielder and decent hitter with some pop available on any given day to come off the bench, and (2) permit a late-game defensive outfield with amazing speed.

But if at least one of those two guys figures it out -- and it looks like Bernadina right now has the inside track -- it would be an enormously helpful thing.

My guess on the rotation as of July 1: Strasburg, Olsen, Hernandez, Lannan, Detwiler. Atilano and Stammen either optioned or in middle relief and one of them possibly traded; Bruney gone (despite the $$). The wild card: Wang

And as Boz wrote this morning, 2011 gets really interesting.

Posted by: Meridian1 | May 13, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Meridian1:

The big difference between Bernadina and Maxwell? RB has actually hit in the minors. He's .321 in 360 ABs at AAA and .292 in 718 ABs at AA. JM on the other hand is .240 in 481 ABS at AAA and .233 in 180 ABs at AA. Minor league stats matter, friends. Maxwell should be released. He's a waste of time.

#4

Posted by: db423 | May 13, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

In instances like Strasburg's, and to a slightly lesser extent, Storen's, don't asume that these guys are in the minors to develop their skills, because it's pretty apparent that the skills are there to be successful major leaguers.
But last year at this time they were pitching in college and taking finals -- they're still in the minors because the Nationals want to make sure they learn how to be professionals before they get called up.
They have to get used to the routine of playing every day, the mental grind of it; the travel, the fans, the autograph and media requests; Strasburg needs to get used to pitching in a 5-man rotation; being called up separately from Harrisburg to Syracuse, they both were able to experience joining a club in the middle of a season, and being a highly-touted addition, how to meld into the chemistry that is already established.
All of these things need to be done in the minors, because players who have to learn these while at the same time trying to adjust to the jump in talent at the big league level are often eaten up and don't return, no matter how good they are.
Having these guys in the majors right now might make the team better on any given day, but it's not the best thing for the player by any stretch of the imagination. It has to work for both the club and the player for it to work, and thankfully, neither of these kids are going to need much more time.

Posted by: mjhoya12 | May 13, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Agree with those who think SS needs to season in the minors,for his own sake as well as the financial/team control matters. As far as what the O's announcer said, I don't think I need a bird man telling me how I should feel as a Nats fan. Nor, I suspect, does he have the best interests of the Nats at heart. Perhaps his time would be better spent worrying about whether O's fans are furious at the perennial woeful under-performance of their team.

Posted by: NatsFly | May 13, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

To all who say Stras should be here know I'm interested to see what you see in a couple of years when we have SS and the Braves are losing Heyward.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | May 13, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Meridan wrote
"Anyone hear Dempsey's remark during last nite's O's game that if he were a Nationals season ticket holder he'd be furious because the management has an obligation to put the best team on the field that it can?"

Dempsey is an ass (although an entertaining ass) for bringing this up. The Orioles did THE EXACT SAME THING with Matt Wieters last year.
He played his first game May 29.

The Nats are going the right thing in every way regarding Strasburg. If he's killing AAA in mid-June, then this becomes an issue.

Since the unspoken but obvious timeline from day 1 was the June 4 - 10 homestand, this is today a complete non-story.

Posted by: Sunderland | May 13, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

this is way too early but carl crawford sure would be a nice addition to our lineup this offseason.

Posted by: longterm | May 13, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I didnt say I agreed with Dempsey -- in fact I said I gave Nats management the benefit of the doubt in keeping SS in the minors.

I just asked if anyone heard him say it. IIRC he prefaced his remark by saying he probably shouldn't say it.

Posted by: Meridian1 | May 13, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

(Trying to hold a flaming baseball) Ow ow ow ow ow He's on fire!!!!!!


This is kid Riduckulous!!! You can't say ridiculous, you have to say it with some attitude. He's Riduckulous!!

The young jedi on this team are learning to use the force!!

Let's go Nats!!!

Posted by: ajb1094 | May 13, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

I think as of today JMax has officially lost his job : to Bernadina and Morse or perhaps Mench. At least until Michael Burgess is ready. And if Morgan keeps having problems in center field he may find himself on the seat for Bernadina.

One game does not make a budding start but Bernadina has been doing the job from the start of ST. Just was never given a chance to start as Riggleman had to trot out all of his favorite AAAA players first: Maxwell, Taveras, Guzman plus Harris who is more a utility guy and left fielder.

As for Strasburg. Let him take the slow road. Its not just good financially ... look at the respect he his engendering throughout the entire system all the way up to the major league club. Starting pitchers are talking to themselves when they have bad outings fearing being the odd man out for Stras. As they like to say: "Its ALL GOOD!" So, leave things as they are in the very competent hands of MIke Rizzo and staff.

Finally, JMAX could learn a thing or two from Strasburg. Last I looked Maxwell was again hitting all of .218 in Syracuse. AAAA I say. That truly is AAAA.

Posted by: periculum | May 13, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

peri, Maxwell is not AAAA. That would mean he can mash AAA pitching but can't hack it in the bigs when he gets the chance. As the stats show, he's never been able even to handle AAA pitching.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | May 13, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

As a Nats season-ticket holder, I am furious at the fact that I often have to look at and listen to Rick Dempsey on MASN HD when the Orioles have taken that main channel.

As a Verizon FiOS customer, I do not get MASN2 in HD. Anybody besides me who would like to harrass Verizon (sponsor of the Nats' postgame show) about this insulting oversight should feel free to do so.

Posted by: shepdave2003 | May 13, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Longterm: I said the same about a month ago concerning Crawford who will be a free agent next year yeah an outfield of Crawford,Morgan and maybe Bernadina would be fantastic. On another note i don't know how long they can keep Strasberg in Syracuse as far as him impacting this team's chances to make the playoff's from what i've seen(last night) and the report's from Syracuse,Strasberg is almost can't miss but that kind of pressure.......................well let's just take a wait and see approach.

Posted by: dargregmag | May 13, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Meridian1:

I wasn't commenting about you.
Was commenting about what you wrote, what Dempsey said.

***********

I didnt say I agreed with Dempsey -- in fact I said I gave Nats management the benefit of the doubt in keeping SS in the minors.

I just asked if anyone heard him say it. IIRC he prefaced his remark by saying he probably shouldn't say it.

Posted by: Meridian1

Posted by: Sunderland | May 13, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

BinM, thought you might appreciate this from this AM, or else someone will die to correct it:

Tom Boswell: Oh, wanted to note that, the best I can tell, the phrase "Clip, Store and Save," that I used in a column a while back, was coined on the Nationals Journal by poster "BinM." I'll see if I can look up his name. Just a tip of the hat.

Posted by: Section506 | May 13, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

It's hard to judge how many additional games we would win this month with Strasburg than without, but if you look over the last few weeks, having Strasburg probably wouldn't have helped that much. There was no way Strasburg was coming up in the first 2-3 weeks of the season (endangering the last year of club control). If you look at the last 2-3 weeks, if Stratburg had come up, he likely replaces Olson, who was the last to join the lineup at that point and hadn't pitched well at first. Well, he's been lights out in his last 4 starts. The Nats 3 of them and the fourth was lost by the bullpen (and Riggs is likely to have an even quicker trigger finger for Strasburg than Olson). Okay, so maybe Strasburg comes up instead of Atilano. Well, Atilano has pitched four games and pitched well (and won) 3 of them. Even the fourth one was lost in extra innings. So maybe (very unlikely) he comes up instead of Chico for that one game - but the Nats won that one too. So at best we're talking one game where having Strasburg would have helped the Nats win a game they lost. He's due another 3-4 games in Syracuse. Sure, playoff spots can be lost by a game or two, but there are some heavy dividends on keeping him simmering for another few weeks.

Posted by: elijah383 | May 13, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

I agree about problem with the Verizon lack of MASN2 HD. If wish they would find a way to get a channel set up for that.

Posted by: Tom8 | May 13, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

@dargregmag,

And so then where do you put Michael Burgess, Destin Hood, Justin Bloxom a switch hitter? They are on their way and developing rapidly. And then there's the draft that will happen in June just after Strasburg arrives ... if Harper's bat is mature where do you put him?

Do you think guys like Crawford, or Werth will sign 1-2 year contracts? At this point they need to decide what to do about Dunn and Willingham first. Right now Willingham is making Jason Bay look like *** a JOKE!!! *** for what he signed for?

MY GOD you would think at least Boz would know better? Right field is NOT THEIR BIGGEST problem. Pitching still IS!

Their best bet would be to trade for a guy like BJ Upton who already has a contract and is already under team control. That sort of deal made sense given his speed, bat, and fielding ability. Not some half-baked slow-afoot right fielder. Heck Kearns would be a better near term solution.

I agree with Rizzo's thinking. Its best FIRST to see what they have internally that works in right field before looking outside. Deal with the Dunn and Willingham contract conundrums. Work on fixing the damned bullpen and getting 2 - 3 top of the rotation starters in place.

Posted by: periculum | May 13, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Yeah 'Mr. Adderall: posting all the time', when are you going to correct this? I was there when "clip 'n save" and "clip store 'n save" were first coined. And you weren't dude. At the very least you could "tip your pointy head" to SteveRep44 and misschatter over on Ben Goessling's blog where these terms were first coined. And should not be attributed to "BinM the Adderall freak" on the WaPo blogs.

_____________________________________________________________

"BinM, thought you might appreciate this from this AM, or else someone will die to correct it:"

"Tom Boswell: Oh, wanted to note that, the best I can tell, the phrase "Clip, Store and Save," that I used in a column a while back, was coined on the Nationals Journal by poster "BinM." I'll see if I can look up his name. Just a tip of the hat."

Posted by: periculum | May 13, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Adam, as a fellow native New Englander, have you looked up Roger Clemens's the minor-league stats from 1983 and 1984 before he made his MLB debut with the Red Sox? Strasburg is right on par with him at the same stages in their careers, if not just slightly better.

Posted by: ericp331 | May 13, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

As a 21 year-old at Pawtucket, Clemens was 2-3 in 7 games with a 1.93 ERA. He also gave up 39 hits with 14 walks in 46 2/3 innings.

Baseball Reference does not list the Ks...

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=clemen001wil

Posted by: MBUSA | May 13, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

periculum, I remember there used to be some commercial for a law firm that would help people get credit for their inventions. They had some weird camera cuts and a strange man in a blue shirt in an all white background, but it's on TV, so it must be legit. They can't lie on TV!

Posted by: Section506 | May 13, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

An update on our favorite former draft pick

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/as-the-aaron-crow-flies/

Posted by: Tom8 | May 13, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

awww, c'mon, it's not that good anyway. Boswell has no ear for hooks.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 13, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

His WHIP is sick

Posted by: chillsonic | May 13, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

For all the guys saying SS should be brought up right now . . . more than one person thought Stasburg's outing yesterday was much better than his previous one -- in that he used his change more often, etc. These simple improvements are exactly what we're hoping he's going to get in the Minors.

And, even if the above were not true, I think we'd all trade a month of not seeing Strasburg this year (where his innings limit might be 150 for the entire year) for an extra year of seeing him with the Nats on the back end!

Posted by: ADCWonk | May 13, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Peri: All good points,the future looks very bright in our farm system and with Crawford i'm thinking instant and experienced production, i'm thinking leadership qualities honed from being involved in playoff and ALCS games but i agree with you pitching is the key the old adage of good pitching stops good hitting comes to mind.

Posted by: dargregmag | May 13, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

A comment from someone named "lowcountry" raises the issue. I don't know exactly what the Nats limits on Strasburg mean, whether they are innings, starts, pitrches, etc., for the year. But if it is a scheme that leads to shutting him down in September, will that still hold if the Nats are where they are now? Is there some bend in this? What are the limits currently in mind, and what do they lead to? Is his why he has been held to such a low pitch limit so far in the minors, to save innings for September? or later?

Posted by: johnknapp2 | May 13, 2010 8:02 PM | Report abuse

Pitching arms needs to build up endurance and not be overworked the first year in the pros...Here's what his college coach had him doing just last year.....

Stephen Strasburg, the unique sensation who swept through Montezuma Mesa and is about to take MLB by storm, was cultivated under Gwynn’s careful eye. His pitch counts rarely exceeded 115. He threw once a week and was never abused.

Most (all?) other college baseball coaches would have had Strasburg throwing 130-140 pitches, relieving in tournaments after starting. Tony calls it “leaving your arm on campus”. He’s vowed not to do that to his kids, and he actually means it.

Posted by: Lookyhere1 | May 15, 2010 11:57 PM | Report abuse

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