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Chapter 2 for Stephen Strasburg

Stephen Strasburg spent his pregame watching the College World Series (Florida vs. Miami) and playing the Big Buck Hunter arcade game in the visiting clubhouse here at Progressive Field.

Between those actitives, Strasburg napped a little bit. There will be more than 30,000 people here today -- including both Ted and Mark Lerner -- and it would be fair to say roughly half showed up exclusively to watch him. TBS will be broadcasting the game on national television. The reality of his debut exceeded even the hype leading up to it. The notion of matching his maiden start, seemingly, has not worn on him.

"Any time expectations get too high on somebody, the anxiety can be high, pressure and so forth," Manager Jim Riggleman said. "But if anybody can handle, he can. He's handled everything up to this point. I think he will only have success or failure based on how he's throwing the ball that day."

The attention hasn't bothered Strasburg (at least in terms of his performance and preparation) and hasn't affected the rest of the Nationals.

"It's great," Riggleman said. "It's great for baseball. It's great for the Nationals. I'm not sure what the attendance is going to be today, but I know it will be a big bump from what it would have been, just like it is at our place. I like that. I like that people have a young player to rally around, a young player to get excited about it. It's great for baseball, and it's great for Washington.'

The attention surroinding Strasburg's first road start stunned Riggleman. For tickets and merchandise to sell so well in Cleveland is unlike anything he's seen.

"Maybe they did this with Koufax," Riggleman said. "Nolan Ryan, I know in Texas, when he pitched at home, it jumped up in attendance every time. But the national attention, certainly, I don't think there's been anything like this."

What can Strasburg do to follow his debt? We'll find out in less than an hour.

By Adam Kilgore  |  June 13, 2010; 12:19 PM ET
 
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Next: Michael Morse gets his chance

Comments

Fernandomania is the best comparison that comes to my mind.

Adam, Mark and Ted do realize that they need to have 4 other starting pitchers on their team, don't they? Contrary to what Kasten says, the starting pitching is not "here."

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | June 13, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

CIL: I disagree, with caveats. Strasburg looked like the real deal as a #1 in his 1st start; Lannan is still a #3-4, given his 1st two years, and Hernandez is currently pitching much better than the #4-5 expected from him in Spring Training. Atilano, Martin, & Stammen can be #4-5 quality as well.
Since JZimm (2-3), Marquis (3-4), Wang (3-4), Olsen (3-4), & Detwiler (4-5) are all on the DL, should two or more of them come back, the starting staff is there, albeit a little 'bottom-heavy'.

Posted by: BinM | June 13, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

BinM, that's a lot of "ifs." So I can understand that one might be able to say that they *hope* that the starting pitching is here, if things come together (when?). But you can't say that it's *here*, because it isn't, yet. And if we are going to only rely on the guys currently in the organization, there's unfortunately a good chance that it never will be. You know what they say about hopes and wishes....

I agree that Stras looked like the real deal. So you need a second *proven* elite pitcher in order to say that the starting pitching is "here." Maybe JZimm becomes an elite guy at some future time (and I am a huge fan of his), but he now has to (1) come back from his injury and then (2) perform at a level at which he was not performing when he was healthy last season. What the Nats should be building towards is having 2 elite guys (Stras and 1 other), and then hope JZimm breaks through as a third really solid guy.

As to the others, I think it's even more of a stretch; I hope maybe one of them pans out, but we'll be lucky if they do and we can hardly bank on it. Marquis has never been good enough to make the post-season rotations of the teams he's been on, even when healthy. Detwiler has never been better than mediocre in the minors, and his stuff is not very sharp. Olsen and Wang? Come on. When is Wang's rehab starting? And the writing unfortunately looks to be on the wall for Olsen with his recent injury setback.

The Nats' starting pitching is unquestionably improving. My point is simply that it is not "here" and they should not be standing pat. Beyond Stras, we're dealing with lots of hopes in unproven and rehabilitating guys.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | June 13, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

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