Stephen Strasburg's next step
This, really, is the best part about a pitching phenom who becomes a phenomenon. The Nationals and their fans waited for one year before his start, anticipation growing and growing with the reward hardly in sight. And now they can experience him starting five days later ... and then 10 days later ... and then 15 days later ... and on and on. He existed as a concept before Tuesday, and now he's one of five Nationals starters.
"He's a regular guy," pitching coach Steve McCatty said, "with a lot of talent."
On Sunday, the Nationals will limit Strasburg to roughly 100 pitches, Manager Jim Riggleman said. Strasburg threw 94 in seven innings in his first start. "We feel like if things go as we hope, we can get us through six," Riggleman said. "If he can go seven, great. We'll try to keep him under 100 pitches."
The Nationals will not treat the 100-pitch mark as a means for automatic removal. If Strasburg has, say, two outs in the sixth and 97 or so pitches, Riggleman would let him finish the inning unless a noted patient hitter was coming to the plate.
"I mean, science has got it down that great that they've determined it's that 102nd pitch that is going to tear your ligament up," Riggleman said. "If there's a free swinger up there, we're probably going to let him finish that inning."
Ivan Rodriguez is out of the lineup today so he can catch Strasburg tomorrow, as he did in Strasburg's debut. Strasburg adores working with Rodriguez, but Riggleman does not believe in personal catchers for a specific starter. While Rodriguez will catch Strasburg's first few starts, Wil Nieves, tonight's starter, will eventually catch one or two.
Strasburg entered the majors with monumental expectations, and he promptly tore the ceiling off of his potential with his unforgettable, 14-strikeout debut. The Indians sold more than 8,000 tickets in three days following the announcement that Strasburg would pitch at Progressive Field on Sunday. As the hype mounts, Strasburg has blended in.
"What his normalcy is compared to somebody else's might be a little different," McCatty said. "He takes it all in stride. For this week, the five days he's been here, he's been absolutely the same as I saw in spring training."
In Strasburg's first start, he did not use any scouting report against the Pittsburgh Pirates. That, McCatty, is the same for any Nationals pitcher; and he certainly does not want to overload anyone in first major league start. This week, McCatty familiarized Strasburg with the Indians lineup, but held back from a full report, the same thing he would do for any starter. Strasburg, he allowed, is different from most others operating without a report.
"Anything he throws, if he throws it the way he can, you can't hit it," McCatty said.
Those pitches have amazed people outside and inside the Nationals clubhouse. (Of the velocity on Strasburg's low-80s curve, Livan Hernandez said, "That's my fastball.") When he struck out a Nationals team record in his first start, Strasburg cherished his debut as a moment but largely shrugged at his success.
"I don't think anything that he does, how well he performs, would ever be a surprise to him," McCatty said. "I really don't think it should be a surprise to anyone. I think the expectations that everybody else has for him would be almost too hard to live up to. But I don't think he pays attention to any of that.
"I don't worry about his expectations, because I'm sure he knows himself pretty well. I don't think he's worried about what other people think about him. He's just going to be what he is. He handles everything great. He just wants to be one of the guys. When he's around us, he takes a lot of ribbing from everybody - the general [baloney] everybody picks on everybody about on."
This afternoon, Strasburg and close friend Drew Storen chatted in the Nationals clubhouse with Dennis Eckersley, the Hall of Fame pitcher who will call Sunday's game on national television for TBS. A few moments later, Strasburg joined the rest of the Nationals pitching staff in the outfield.
"Just another start," McCatty said. "It doesn't bother him. It's just the way he is. With all the hoopla, he takes it all in stride."
June 12, 2010; 6:46 PM ET
Categories: Stephen Strasburg | Tags: Nationals pitching, Nats-Indians, Stephen Strasburg
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