Strasburg ready for The Show (cont.)
If anything, Strasburg was a little bit off Wednesday night. He was not commanding his 97-100 mph fastball the way he normally does. He got behind 2-0 to more hitters than normal. He more than made up for this with his secondary pitches -- his left-breaking curveball and right-breaking changeup. Those were the pitches that left me in awe. They are all out pitches. Any one of those pitches would be good enough to make a pitcher a big prospect.
There have been pitchers who have come up to the big leagues with a high-90s fastball. There have been young pitchers with great secondary pitches. And there have been young pitchers with command beyond their years.
But I wonder if there has ever been pitcher who had all three at such a young age. The thing about big league hitters is that they are ridiculously good. They find ways to score runs on even the greatest pitchers. Not a lot of runs, perhaps. But no pitcher goes through life with an 0.00 ERA. Neftali Feliz throws 101 mph, but they score runs off him. Roy Halladay has a fastball, a cutter, a curveball and a change -- all great pitches -- but they score runs off him. Tim Lincecum throws a 98-mph fastball and what hitters unhappily call the Bugs Bunny change-up -- and they score runs off him too. They scored off Walter Johnson, Sandy Koufax, Bob Feller and Tom Seaver. They scored off of Pedro Martinez and Greg Maddux. They scored runs off of Nolan Ryan who had the nastiest stuff of all.
Thing is: When Stephen Strasburg is throwing 100 mph for strikes and mixing in those two pitches, honestly, I have absolutely no idea how they are going to score runs off him.
But that's left to the imagination for now. Wednesday, it was clear, Rochester was not going to score runs off him. More than 12,500 people squeezed into a stadium that officially seats about 1,700 fewer people. They were sitting in the grass. Stephen Strasburg T-shirts sold for $19.99 -- about five dollars more than the T-shirts of Rochester hero Cal Ripken. It was a special night ... one of those nights that had that feel of history. You got the feeling that a lot of people hope to one day say: "Yeah, I saw Stephen Strasburg before, right here in Rochester."
You never know how that sort of thing will turn out, of course. The last time there was this much hype over a pitcher in Rochester, it was a sellout crowd turning out to see former Yankees phenom Hideki Irabu. And, yeah, that didn't turn out too well.
"We heard a lot about (Strasburg)," Rochester catcher Jose Morales said. "And he more than lived up to it." Well, it's true. This is one of those cases where the hype -- silly as it may be -- does not overstate the talent. The Rochester hitters have seen Cincinnati mega-prospect Aroldis Chapman a couple of times this year -- they faced him just a few days ago, in fact. And, hitter after hitter, pitcher after pitcher, they say there is no comparison. Chapman is a talented 22-year-old pitcher who still has a lot to learn.
"He's a horse," Nieto says, and you get the sense he doesn't have a higher compliment to offer a young pitcher. Well, there are no higher compliments left. Is Stephen Strasburg the real thing? Can't say that yet. But you can say, without hesitation, that they can't hit him in Rochester.
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