Stephen Strasburg: 'I'm not the face of the franchise'
It feels like much, much longer, since he's crammed in a franchise-shifting debut, 22 strikeouts, an appearance on Letterman, a request from the Hall of Fame and the cover of Sports Illustrated. But Stephen Strasburg has been a major leaguer for nine days.
In that time, just one week and two days, Strasburg has started to find a routine in the majors; he felt far more comfort in his second start Sunday than his first, he said. He has listened to teammates and learned from watching big league hitters react from the dugout. And then there's his favorite part.
"There's a lot of good perks, but food is definitely improved at this league," Strasburg said today in a 10-minute media session. "When you have crab legs and shrimp for a pre-BP meal, that's saying something."
On Friday, Strasburg will make his next start, a game that promises to become an event nearly on par with his unforgettable debut. The Nationals have garnered unprecedented local and national attention, Strasburg the sole reason. Strasburg continues to disregard the hype surrounding him and, whenever he can, defer to his teammates.
"I'm not the face of the franchise," Strasburg said. "You got to talk to guys like Pudge and Dunn and Zimmerman. They've been here. They've earned that right. I've pitched two games here.
"I feel like nobody in this organization expects me to be the guy who turns this franchise around. It's going to be a collective effort, and it starts from the ground up. I'm just trying be a good teammate in the clubhouse and go out there and be an impact player."
Strasburg has convinced virtually everyone across baseball, though, that he will be the force behind any franchise changes. "When they got that horse pitching," Tigers Manager Jim Leyland said, "they're as good as anybody in baseball that day."
In San Diego, even after he transformed into the clear-cut No. 1 overall pick, Strasburg rarely was noticed outside of sporting venues, he said. Now, he sees people recognize him all the time in Washington. This afternoon, he went P.F. Chang's with Ivan Rodriguez at a shopping center outside Detroit. One diner approached them and said, "Good luck."
"But that's because Pudge was there," Strasburg said. "I think they put two and two together."
At the ballpark, Strasburg has settled into the routine he thrives on. Yesterday, he lifted weights. During games between starts, Strasburg focuses on every pitch.
"You've got to check in every single day, mentally and physically," Strasburg said. "There's always something you can pick up on. Just watching the game, like last night, I started to really pick up how certain hitters attack certain pitchers. As long as I keep focusing on that, I think I'll learn a lot from it. Other than that, to me, it's pretty much the same game. It's obviously a little bit faster paced up here. But it's still 60 feet, 6 inches. The base paths are 90 feet. Same game."
In two days, Strasburg will get to pitch again, this time against the White Sox. Mark Buerhle is listed as the schedule starter, but Manager Ozzie Guillen told reporters today he is consider moving Jake Peavy back to Friday. Growing up in San Diego while Peavy pitched for the Padres, Strasburg idolized him.
Strasburg said he would like to meet Peavy when the White Sox come to Nationals Park, but he wouldn't go out of his way. "I don't have so much like admiration for [other pitchers], especially now that we're equals," Strasburg said.
No matter the opposing pitcher, Nationals Park will be electric Friday. Strasburg is anxious, but only so he can pitch again.
"I don't really know what to expect," Strasburg said. "If it's going to be another big spectacle, that's great. If not, that's great, too. I'm just excited to be on the mound again."
For the first 11 starts of this year, in the minor leagues, Strasburg ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. He is a major leaguer now, but his days eating PB&Js aren't over.
"Oh, yeah," Strasburg said. "I'm sure crab legs will get old soon."
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