Nats phenom Stephen Strasburg has nothing left to prove in minors
Stephen Strasburg threw 6 1/3 shutout innings; he has 18 1/3 so far in Triple A
Strasburg boasts a 100 mph fastball, a wicked curve and an absurd change-up
Strasburg is expected to make his major-league debut on June 4 against the Reds
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- There really isn't much to add to the Stephen Strasburg hype orchestra. He's obviously too good to be pitching in Triple A. Working for the Syracuse Chiefs against the Rochester Red Wings on Wednesday night, he threw 6 1/3 more scoreless innings (that's 18 1/3 scoreless at Syracuse). He allowed three hits -- only one of which was well hit -- and he struck out nine, and he hit 100 on the radar gun, though it was his wiffleball change-up that left the sellout crowd in Rochester gasping.
Yeah. There's nothing much to add. He's too good for this level. He might be too good for the next level too, but we won't begin to know that until June 4, when he should make his big league debut for the Nationals at home against Cincinnati. That figures to be the closest thing to a playoff baseball atmosphere they have felt in Washington since the Senators of Heinie Manush lost to the Giants in the '33 World Series.
Strasburg almost certainly won't pitch in the big leagues until June 4 because the Nationals, understandably, don't want him to be eligible for arbitration in two years. And they wouldn't mind him pitching twice on that early June home stand. Of course, that's not what the Nationals say -- they might not even be allowed to say that. Instead, they will say that he still has a few things he could work on. Perhaps his walk to and from the dugout could use a little tightening up. He could improve on the tilt of his baseball cap. Something. Anything. He won't pitch until June 4.
Until then, Strasburg will destroy Triple-A hitters. He will inspire absurd expectations, and he will inspire "Let's wait and see what he does against the big boys" doubts. He will inspire people like Curt Schilling to say, "I've never seen anything like him." He will inspire doubters to tweet, "Big deal! Let's see him do it in The Show!"
And it goes on. There's nothing else he can do while pitching for the Syracuse Chiefs. On Wednesday, he struck out former major leaguer Jacque Jones on a curveball that was so sick it needed to be hospitalized for three days after the game. But, yes, it was former major leaguer Jacque Jones.
Later, he threw a sweeping curveball to Rochester's Trevor Plouffe that, no kidding, must have broken four feet outside. Plouffe was so lost in the moment, so worried about the 100 mph fastball, that he swung anyway, like he was hypnotized. Remarkable. But, yes, Trevor Plouffe, is just 24 and trying to figure things out himself.
Two errors were made behind Strasburg -- he forced double play grounders out of the next batter both times. He struck out six of the last eight batters he faced, sometimes with a high-90s fastball, sometimes with that absurd change-up that, like an annoying driver, disappears into the hitter's blind spot, and once with a curveball that was appeared to stop, drop and roll about four feet from home plate. Inconceivable -- and, yes, I do know what that word means. But, yes, all this was against the Rochester Red Wings.
"What did you think about the standing ovation you got after the game?" he was asked, because when he came out in the seventh inning the Rochester fans stood and applauded him, though he was the visiting pitcher.
"I haven't proven anything yet," he said.
But this is the point -- he can't prove anything more. Not here. So all he can do is wow the people in Upstate New York until he gets the call. And he does that. When the game ended, everyone talked about some Strasburg quality that made them gasp. Rochester manager Tom Nieto was amazed by Strasburg's competitive nature -- he came after hitters. Former Baltimore manager Joe Altobelli was taken by Strasburg's power stuff -- he reminded Altobelli of the old-time pitchers. Glen Perkins, who won 12 games in the big leagues in 2008 and is trying to work his way back, was taken by how quietly he did his job -- it never FELT like Strasburg was pitching an electrifying game. It just felt normal.