Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Deja vu for Strasburg

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Stephen Strasburg returns to the mound tonight against the Marlins.
Around 6:40 p.m. tonight, Stephen Strasburg will emerge from the first-base dugout at Nationals Park and make his way, along with pitching coach Steve McCatty, to the right-field corner. There he'll stretch and begin playing catch before moving to the bullpen to fully warm-up off the mound. It's the first game of a homestand for the Nationals, with Strasburg preparing to rematch an NL East opponent for the first time in his rookie season.

Wait, haven't we seen this before?

Yes, exactly two weeks removed from his aborted warm-up session, Strasburg will be right back in the same spot tonight. On July 27, with the Braves waiting in the other dugout, few among the sellout crowd noticed when the rookie right-hander snuck out of the bullpen and was replaced by Miss Iowa...er, Miguel Batista about 15 minutes before first pitch. Tonight, all eyes will be on Strasburg throughout his pregame routine, no one resting easy until he actually takes the mound and throws his first pitch to Marlins leadoff hitter Hanley Ramirez.

(Oh, if you hadn't heard, tickets are still available. The Nationals wanted to make sure you were aware of that.)

It's probably going to be like this the remainder of Strasburg's rookie season. Two weeks ago, we took for granted that he'd actually pitch when listed as the Nats' starting pitcher. But then the dreaded words "shoulder tightness" became part of the local lexicon, and now his every move and every throw are closely monitored (even more ridiculously than they were before he landed on the DL).

By all accounts, there's really nothing to worry about here. Strasburg experienced something that happens to just about every pitcher in his first professional season: Arm fatigue. It's not at all uncommon for a young hurler who has never been through the rigors of a full pro season to deal with this type of thing at this stage of the summer. We just never pay attention when it happens to anyone else, because that pitcher is most likely in Vermont or Hagerstown when it happens, not Washington.

This was one of the risks in moving Strasburg so quickly through the minor leagues. Obviously, he was talented enough to do it. And the Nationals would have been blasted from every corner of the baseball world if they kept him in the minors throughout 2010. They didn't do anything wrong. We just should have understood this was a possibility somewhere along the way. Maybe even a probability.

Point is, Strasburg's shoulder has been fine since two days after his aborted start. He's played catch several times since then. He's thrown off a bullpen mound twice. He's faced live hitters once. No problems reported in any of those sessions.

Will there be some trepidation as he throws that first pitch to Ramirez tonight? Absolutely. But once that moment passes and Strasburg immerses himself in the game, the crowd will likely breathe a sigh of relief as well and just sit back and enjoy the experience.

By the end of the night, perhaps we'll be more concerned with how Strasburg handled his first career rematch than with how his shoulder feels.


Jimmy said...

How bout this for dumb luck?

I bought the four-game flex plan so I could go to the Strasburg debut back in June. Knowing it would be difficult to predict his starts after the all-star break, I picked the next two games at random. The first ended up being Strasburg's aborted start against the Braves two weeks ago (which was a bummer, but hey - I didn't expect him that night anyway). The second is his start tonight against the Marlins. Both completely unintentional. I still need to redeem the free game voucher that came with the plan. Can I go four-for-four on the flex plan?

Anonymous said...

Of course there are seats available..the hype is OVER...and they are offering 1/2 price seats tonight...I guess they do not want to be highlighted on SportCenter and have only 5,000 people in the seats!!! LOL this franchise is a joke PR wise

NatsJack in Florida said...

And when have they had an attendance of 5,000?

I'm sorry but I don't recall that game.

SBrent said...

Don't argue with Anonymous, NatsJack. Anonymous is always right! That's why you see him posting so often, I'm sure. The whiny, negative sumbitch! :~)

Anonymous said...

To see how easily young pitchers can run into problems, look at Aaron Crow, the 1st rounder the Nats couldn't sign.

Because he failed to sign, he essentially lost a year making only a few starts for a Ft. Worth independent club. Redrafted by Kansas City, he did well enough in spring training that the manager did a lengthy apology/explanation for sending him down to AA Northern Arkansas to begin the season.

While he had some good games early at AA, he began to struggle more by the middle of the season. With a 7-7 record and a 5.66 ERA, he was demoted to Wilmington in July. He's the only player on the Wilmington team who is on KC's 40 man roster. In his first start there, he was roughed up badly. In his second start, he went 8 innings and got the win. He's 1-1 with a 5.65 ERA.

I think KC has handled him fairly well--although it would have been better for Crow's confidence to start lower in the minors and then work his way up. I think the big problem is the lost year and long layoff. His agents bear significant responsibility for that but Crow has some as well.

He still has good stuff and I hope he straightens things out in Wilmington. His last start was a gem and baring injury I think he'll have a good career.

But he has to have moments when he reads about draft classmates Strasburg and Drew Storen enjoying big success with the Nats when he second-guesses the decision not to sign the first time around.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Don't worry Sbrent... I wouldn't argue with him/her...I just like pointing out the non-factual liar that he/she is.

Anonymous said...

rmoore, that is a big assumption that Crow is smart enought to second guess his decision!

Doc said...

@rmoore: Thanks for the the really good update on Crow. So much for the rating skills of the majority of pitching scouts that listed Crow's draft value ahead of Storen's.

Let's also not forget #1 Draft choice (2001?) Bryan Bullington---or does anybody need to remember.

Stew Magnuson said...

Every time I see Storen come out to pitch, I think of Aaron Crow and thank him and his agent.
Storen wanted to sign and get his career going and was pitching in Hagerstown within a few weeks. Look where he is now.
A lesson for young first round pitchers.

pauloyd said...

So I've been out of the loop for a few days. Is this Dunn waivers thing over with yet?

JayB said...

Oh I recall some days when at best there were 5-7K in the seats....yes Season tickets holders keep that from being the official attendance but Sept in 2008 was really bad....recall a rain date when at best we had 500 in the stands....also look back at 2007 in RFK and that place was empty in Sept but again Season Ticket holders like me propped up the attendance numbers, but as far as butts in the seats....Nats have done the 5,000 thing before.

Anonymous said...

Any weekday game has about 5,000 people there in 2010, official attendance is always over 20,000 but those of us attending all of those games know thast the stadium is a quiter than a church on those days!!

Anonymous said...

I'm with Stew Magnuson on thanking our lucky stars that we ended up with Storen rather than Crow. Storen may have seemed to outsiders naive by signing immediately but it really did work out for him. I also think it's neat that he and Srasburg had some time in the minors together and seem likely to share many successful games with the Nats.

Anonymous said...

Crow went for all of his money on the front end of his career. Storen will make all of his money on the back end. It's funny how confidence takes different forms in different people's lives.

Stew Magnuson said...

I spent a year covering the Dodgers in 2002. It was then when I came up with this variation of an old adage:
"There are lies, damn lies and then there are statistics. And even worse, there's the 'announced attendance.'"

Steve M. said...

Stew Magnuson said...
Every time I see Storen come out to pitch, I think of Aaron Crow and thank him and his agent.
Storen wanted to sign and get his career going and was pitching in Hagerstown within a few weeks. Look where he is now.
A lesson for young first round pitchers.

I agree. Funny how things work out. I met Drew last night at this Zimmerman event for Multiple Sclerosis. Wonderful guy.

A DC Wonk said...

Stat of the day (from Nats Journal):

Craig Stammen has made batters swing and miss 49 times in his last four starts. Strasburg has made batters swing and miss 43 times in his last four starts.

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