Tonight's the night for Stephen Strasburg
Stephen Strasburg will walk to the mound at Nationals Park tonight. He will fulfill a dream and, more urgently, feel a certain kind of release. The middle of a baseball diamond is the one site, more than ever, where he is most at ease, where the autograph hunters can't touch him and the cameras don't bother him. Strasburg is lucky to be so good at something he loves so much.
"Pick your favorite place in the world," said Kathy Swett, Strasburg's mother, back in spring training after he made his first spring training start. "That's where he feels most comfortable. Just playing."
This is where Strasburg wants to be. Before he left San Diego for spring training, he asked Tony Gwynn, his college coach, "What do you do when you want to make a team out of spring training and you know you're not going to get a chance to?" The wait has been just as tough for him as it was for fans.
"He wanted to make it out of spring training and go north with the big club," Gwynn said.
He'll get to pitch now, no more wondering or waiting. Strasburg has thrown in the high-90s, maybe not touching 100 mph as often as he did in college. This, Gwynn explained, is both by design and a good thing. Strasburg can get batters out while throwing 97. Why not conserve and pitch eight inning instead of seven? Why not save something extra for when he needs it?
The thing his eye-popping stuff conceals, Gwynn said, is his artistry as a pitcher. Strasburg can throw 100, but he understands his craft like a junkballer. "He loves the art of pitching," Gwynn said.
Teammates often talk about how unselfish Strasburg is during interviews, how humble he behaves in the clubhouse. That translates to the field, too. Strasburg could easily make the game about him. He could light up the radar gun at 100 every pitch if he wanted to, the triple digits a fluorescent sign screaming, "Look at the pitcher!"
"If I had his stuff," reliever Drew Storen said, "I would just try to strike everybody out."
Strasburg, though, is more subtle than he needs to be. He does the unselfish thing. This spring, he said he would rather induce a groundball than strike out a batter. That way, he could pitch longer and give his team a better chance. He loves watching Livan Hernandez, Storen said. He wants to pitch like him, except at hyperspeed. It's not like he's not going to pile up strikeouts. But he'll throw sinkers in the mid-to-high 90s and be perfectly content with groundballs.
And for tonight, he'll be perfectly content with where he is.
FROM THE POST
Stephen Strasburg's dream is about to become a reality, Dave Sheinin writes. The end to Sheinin's excellent piece is a an absolute treat.
Boz wants you to just enjoy tonight, because events like it don't come along often.
The Nationals surprised no one by taking Bryce Harper, but they may made a ripple by declaring him an outfielder.
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Durham 12, Syracuse 3: Chase Lambin went 2 for 4 with a double. Collin Balester allowed three runs on four walks and two hits in 2/3 of an inning of relief. He struck out two.
Harrisburg was off.
Frederick 3, Potomac 1: Tyler Moore went 2 for 4 with a home run. Brad Peacock allowed three runs in five innings on seven hits and a walk, striking out nine.
Delmarva 7, Hagerstown 6: Jeff Kobernus went 2 for 5 with a double. Justin Bloxom went 2 for 4 with a double. Josh Smoker allowed four earned runs in four innings on six hits and a walk.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
Stephen Strasburg's debut is having a significant business affect in D.C., including MASN doubling its ad rate.
Stephen Strasburg is Christmas morning, Joe Posnanski writes.
Even before the Nationals announced Bryce Harper would be an outfielder, Dave Cameron looked at Harper's value as an outfielder.
Politico writes about Strasburg and learns Walter Johnson's granddaughter likes what she sees in the new phenom.
Albert Pujols is impressed with Bryce Harper, according to this E:60 video.
Harper gives the Nationals more hope for the future, Joe Lemire writes.
The eye black has got to go, Jeff Passan wrote even before Mike Rizzo said he wouldn't allow it.
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