June 2010

STRASBURG, Right Ahead!

Stras-Burg 2.jpg

The Top Ten: “Little-Known Facts About Stephen Strasburg.”

Stephen Strasburg appeared on the Late Show via satellite from Nationals Park and read the Top Ten list last night.

CBS’ David Letterman: “This guy is already selling tickets. In his Major League debut for the Washington Nationals, struck out 14 batters against the Pittsburgh Pirates and went on to win that ballgame 5-2. He has four incredible pitches. He has a 91-mile-an-hour changeup. He has a curveball – the only way you can see this curveball is if you actually have seats in the parking lot. It breaks that severely, honest to God, and I spent seven years of my life in the Dominican Republic as a scout so I know what I’m talking about.”

10) “To keep my focus on pitching, I sleep on a mound of dirt.”

9) “Every morning I spread Icy Hot on my toast.”

8) “Got 3 of my 14 strikeouts while Twittering.”

7) “To celebrate my first big league win, I bought a hot tub time machine.”

6) “I wasn’t really good till I got bitten by that radioactive spider.”

5) “Dumb guys think I directed ‘E.T.'”

4) “I also scored the winning goal for the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals.”

3) “I blew my signing bonus on laser back hair removal.”

2) “Don’t even try to talk to me before a start or while I’m watching ‘Glee.'”

1) “If I would have known I’d be on Letterman, I wouldn’t have pitched so well.”

Strasburg to appear on the Late Show with David Letterman


Stephen Strasburg from behind.jpgStephen Strasburg can check one more thing off his Stasmas list. He will read the “Top 10 List” on CBS’ Late Show with David Letterman this evening. You can tune in to their local CBS affiliate at 11:35 p.m. to watch Strasburg deliver tonight’s list.

 

In case you forgot about Tuesday night already, Strasburg turned in a dazzling performance during his Major League debut at Nationals Park striking out 14 Pirates in 7.0 innings.

 

Nats look to sink the Bucs

The Nationals are the only team in the Majors without a series sweep but they have a chance to bring out the brooms tonight. The durable Livan Hernandez will take the mound as he tries to pick up his first win since May 4 tonight against the Pirates.

 

The Pirates don’t have to worry about Strasburg’s 97-99 mph fastball but they do have to deal with the crafty veteran. It is no secret the two pitchers have styles as opposite as the poles, but they both get the job done. Livo has been a reliable arm all season long, pitching on short rest once and at least 5.0 innings in all 11 starts. Granted his fastball is only slightly faster–85 mph–than Strasburg’s curveball, Livo pitches to contact and has an ability to make batter’s look foolish with his slow looping 65 mph curveball.

 

By the Numbers in 2010: Livo looks to get back on the winning road tonight.

First five starts: 4-1 with a 0.99 ERA (36.1 IP/ 4 ER) with 13 walks and a .186 BAA.

Last six starts: 0-2 with a 3.44 ERA (36.2 IP/ 14 ER) with 10 walks and a .277 BAA.

 

Who said it?

“I don’t think it’s weird to call [Strasburg the ace of the staff]. He is obviously our top pitcher right now. I don’t think that’s taking away from anything anyone has done here this year. Guys like him come around once every 10, 15, 20 years.”

 

Interleague play resumes tomorrow. The Nats will play six games in AL parks–three in Cleveland and Detroit–where they can utilize the DH position. It will allow Manager Jim Riggleman the ability to give Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman a pseudo-rest while not taking them out of the lineup. Dunn batted .333 (6-for-18) with two home runs and five RBI in six games last season as the DH.

Pirates (23-36):

1.    Jose Tabata – LF

2.    Neil Walker – 2B

3.    Andrew McCutchen – CF

4.    Garrett Jones – RF

5.    Ryan Doumit – 1B

6.    Bobby Crosby – SS

7.    Adam LaRoche – 3B

8.    Jason Jaramillo – C

9.    Zach Duke – SP (3-6, 5.43 ERA)

Nationals (29-31):

1.      Cristian Guzman – 2B

2.      Ian Desmond – SS

3.      Adam Dunn – 1B

4.      Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

5.      Josh Willingham – LF

6.      Pudge Rodriguez – C

7.      Michael Morse – RF

8.      Roger Bernadina – CF

9.      Livan Hernandez – SP (4-3, 2.22 ERA

Who said it? Adam Dunn

The day after Strasmas and all through the Park…

A day after Stephen Strasburg made his unforgettable Major League debut, Brad Lincoln makes his debut for the Pirates. Lincoln was Pittsburgh’s first round pick in the 2006 Draft (fourth pick overall) out of the University of Houston. He was ranked by Baseball America as Pittsburgh’s fourth-best prospect prior to the 2009 and 2010 seasons… He was also recognized as having the “Best Curveball” in the organization prior to this year.

 

Pirates (23-35):

1.    Jose Tabata – LF

2.    Neil Walker – 2B

3.    Andrew McCutchen – CF

4.    Garrett Jones – 1B

5.    Adam LaRoche – 3B

6.    Lastings Milledge – RF

7.    Ronny Cedeno – SS

8.    Jason Jaramillo – C

9.    Brad Lincoln – SP (Major League Debut)

 

*Pittsburgh native Neil Walker has hit safely in 10 of his first 13 games since being promoted from Indianapolis on May 25. Walker has produced six multi-hit games in his last 12 contests and has started each of the last 13 games overall. Among NL rookies since May 25, he ranks second in batting average (.320), slugging percentage (.520) and OPS (.890), first in extra base hits (seven) and third in on-base percentage (.370).

 Nationals (28-31):

1.      Cristian Guzman – 2B

2.      Niger Morgan – CF

3.      Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

4.      Adam Dunn – 1B

5.      Josh Willingham – LF

6.      Roger Bernadina – RF

7.      Ian Desmond – SS

8.      Wil Nieves – C

9.      John Lannan – SP (2-3, 4.79 ERA) 

*The Nationals’ 28 wins to date are two more than the 26 W’s registered by the Nationals prior to last season’s All-Star break. The  Nationals’ 28th win last season came via a 3-1 decision on July 22 vs. NYM.

 

A Strasburg Style Diary

Follow the live diary from Nationals Park all day as Stephen Strasburg makes his Major League Debut.

10:00 a.m.: If you just stumbled out of a cave this morning, Stephen Strasburg is making his Major League debut tonight. He needs no introduction and if you want to read his story, Google his name and you will get 8,130,000 results in 0.21 seconds. Alex Rodriguez registered 6,650,000 results in 0.24 seconds.

1 minute later: Can you imagine what the 8,130,000th item is about? I wish there was a way to find out. I don’t think it is possible though. It would take a year to scroll through them all yet it took 0.21 seconds for Google. I am guessing it is about Strasburg, VA.

Debuts in 2010: This is arguably the most hyped and anticipated debut since the inception of the Draft–granted it has never been easier to create hype in the age of instant access, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook but Nationals President Stan Kasten said he has never seen this type of anticipation ever before. People have recorded every breath he has taken since he was discovered in San Diego/San Strasburg. Speaking of Major League debuts… Drew Storen, Luis Atilano and Jesse English all made their Major League debuts for the Nationals this season too.

As of today, 69 players have made their Major League debuts this season. Mike Leake was the first player from the 2009 draft class to make it to The Show. He pitched 6.2 innings and gave up one run on four hits and seven walks against the Cubs on April 11. He also collected two hits at the plate.

“I didn’t have any jitters,” Leake said after the game. He gave up a hit and issued two walks before recording an out. He eventually got out of the base loaded jam unharmed in the first inning. “I was just trying to do too much and I was pulling the ball. Seven walks is a little much.”

Seven walks is a little too much but it was memorable enough that he jokingly requested for the seventh-walk ball. I am guessing he never got it.

11:42: Strasburg’s start today will conclude an eventful calendar year: if last year’s draft was New Years day, today is New Years Eve… so it is only fitting that there will be quite a celebration tonight. He was drafted on June 9, 2009, signed less than two minutes before the midnight signing deadline in August, pitched in the Arizona Fall League, got married in January, attended his first Major League Spring Training, made a rapid accent through the Minor League system and now he has arrived at his final destination where his journey is just beginning.

Side bet: Blogs all over the internet are predicting Strasburg’s final line. Yes, you can even bet on the first pitch: ball (+120) or strike (-150)? The over/under for strikeouts is 5.5, total pitches is 90.5 and innings pitched is 6.

12:05: There is a countdown on ESPN: 6 hours, 54 minutes and 12 seconds to first pitch.


Spencer Patton c.jpg12:59:
Silver Spring resident Spencer Patton was the first person to buy a standing room only ticket. He was the person who got all the glory–and by glory I mean he was interviewed by ABC 7–but in actuality he wasn’t the first person in line. His friend started the line in front of the Box Office at 7:30 a.m. Patton got there around nine–it just proves the late bird gets the worm and Strasburg tickets too.


Long lines for tickets.jpg1:31:
“I want to wait here just so I can see the reaction of the first person who doesn’t get tickets,” someone said.

1:32: He thought about it for about a minute. “I am not that mean.”

1:35: Everyone who waited in line was able to get tickets.


$5 Seats.jpg1:40:
Why buy a $10 standing room only ticket when you can wait three more hours and get a $5 ticket that comes with a seat.

3:20: In my brief search to find the person who traveled the farthest to witness Stephen Strasburg, I found Tom from Houston, Texas. Hopefully, we can find someone who came from a different country just for this game. “It is going to be crazy here,” he said. I stopped counting after the third time he said it but I agreed each time. Never before has a Nats-Bucs game garnered World-Series-like coverage in June.

3:31: Drew Storen passed through the media gauntlet on the field. Every time he was done with one interview, there was another camera waiting for him just so they could ask him questions about the one and only, Stephen Strasburg.

“He’s got a great personality–it’s just that he’s a very low-key guy,” Storen said yesterday. “And it’s not what you’d expect out of a guy like that. You expect a big-time talent to have a big-time personality and be this real outspoken guy, and he’s far from that. He’s a guy that will ask anybody questions and is willing to learn from anybody, and that’s the key to his success. … He’s got a different type personality than I do, but he’s got the right personality for the position he’s in.”


060810 pictures 067.jpg3:39:
After about the fifth interview, it looked like he was going to turn down his first interview ever. He looked up at the clock in centerfield, noticed he still had five minutes before he had to stretch and said, “All right, one more.” He has never met a microphone he didn’t like.


 
060810 pictures 086.jpg3:46:
The Baseball Tonight guys are here. GM Mike Rizzo, Ryan Zimmerman and Nyjer Morgan all found themselves on the set.


060810 pictures 100.jpg3:55:
Harold Reynolds from the MLB Network is playing flip with the Nats players. He didn’t win but he did break a nice sweat.

4:01: There is a media circus around Jim Riggleman for his pregame press conference.


060810 pictures 112.jpg4:12:
Morgan just wanted his picture taken… so we took it. He is a pretty scary guy… not.


060810 pictures 117.jpg4:13:
Willie Harris felt excluded so he joined.

4:30: The gates are open.

4:32: Strasburg’s first Major League Lineups:

Pirates:

McCutchen – CF

Walker – 2B

Milledge – LF

Jones – 1B

Young – RF

LaRoche – 3B

Cedeno – SS

Jaramillo – C

Karstens – P

 Nationals:

Guzman – 2B

Morgan – CF

Zimmerman – 3B

Dunn – 1B

Willingham – LF

Rodriguez – C

Bernadina – RF

Desmond – SS

Strasburg – P

6:03:  Zimmerman appeared on the MLB Network and they asked what he is going to say to Strasburg before his first pitch when he gives him the ball after it goes around the horn. Plain and simple: “Throw it 100 or everyone will be pissed,” Zim said with a laugh.

6:05: Uni Watch–We won’t focus on the apparel tonight but there are countless people sporting Strasburg T-shirt jerseys and I just saw someone wearing a Tour de France jersey. Wrong sport and colors buddy.

6:15: “I have never seen anything that mirrors this,” GM Mike Rizzo said. “It really feels like a World Series like atmosphere.”

6:38: The Nats sold 2,000 standing room only tickets. I’m guessing this will be the largest crowd at Nationals Park… besting the previous record of 41,985 set on June 25, 2009 against Boston. There is a big difference tonight though. On June 25 there were about 20,000 Red Sox fans and that is a conservative estimate. Tonight, there might be 10 Pirates fans–I have only seen four.

6:39: It just occurred to me why there are so many fans tonight… Lastings Milledge is back in town.

6:41: You really couldn’t ask for better weather tonight–76 degrees, partly cloudy with a light wind. As they say at Nationals Park, it is a b-e-a-utiful night in NatsTown.

6:42: Strasburg just entered the bullpen. People are lining the railings, leaning over the edge just to get a look at his bullpen session. I attempted to count the number of cameras trying to get a picture of him… but it was a hopeless endeavor.

6:57: So much for people coming to watch Millege. He was booed by fans as the announcer read off Pirates lineup.


Opening Pitch Strasburg.jpg7:00:  Five minutes to first pitch. Wow. Strasburg received a standing ovation as he walked from the bullpen to dugout. Pitching Coach Steve McCatty tipped his cap. Strasburg’s stony stare that could have scared a shark finally cracked and he smiled. Actually, he began to laugh and unsuccessfully tried to cover it up. I don’t know what that did for his heart beat but it must be pounding.

7:04: The fans still haven’t taken their seats. I don’t expect them to sit down before the first out.

7:06: First Pitch. 97 mph fastball. Ball one. Cameras flashed like Barry Bonds was about to hit his 756th home run.

7:06: First Major League out on his third Major League pitch–a 98 mph fastball. Andrew McCutchen lined out to Ian Desmond.

7:08: Pitch eight–a 99-mph fastball–got Walked to ground out to Dunn. Two down.

7:09: Welcome back Lastings. Strasburg sat him down in three pitches: a 99-mph fastball called strike, 82-mph curveball for a called strike two and a 83-mph curveball strike three swinging.

7:14: How. Far. Will. It. Go? Ryan Zimmerman home run. Nats lead 1-0.

7:19: He started 3-0 to Garrett Jones, then threw three straight fastballs, striking him out on a 99-mph fastball.

7:21: It’s amazing. After each pitch, the crowd either groans or cheers. You can follow the ups and downs of this game without even laying your eyes on the field.

7:21: Strikeout number three, 83-mph curveball under the arms of Young.

7:22: Andy LaRouche hit a 100 mph fastball for Strasburg’s first hit. It’s also Strasburg’s first 100 mph pitch tonight.

7:24: Three outs. Strikeout number four. Through two innings, Strasburg has thrown 30 pitches, 18 for strikes. No runs.

7:29: The sight of Lastings Milledge chasing Pudge’s hit down the foul line has everyone cheering.

7:37: Strikeout number five. An 83-mph curveball catches Jaramillo looking.


Stephen Stasburg debut c.jpg7:39:
Strikeout number six. This has become the K count and it’s not fair. He blew away opposing pitcher Jeff Karstens with a 98-mph fastball. Why do pitchers hit?

7:41: Once again, cameras are flashing and a standing as Strasburg walks to the plate. Fans apparently think he’s Barry Bonds with the bat.

7:43: Strasburg proved he may be at least partially human as he grounded out to short.

7:54: Pudge took a trip to the mound after Strasburg surrendered two straight hits to Walker and Milledge.

7:57: Jones worked the count full after starting 0-2, then hit into a 6-4-3 double play.

7:58: Strasburg made his first mistake–a hanging change-up–and Delwyn Young hit a two-run homer.

Seconds later: A fan threw back the home run ball that Young hit. Dunn picked it up and threw it to a ball boy in the dugout. There’s a good chance Strasburg will be seeing that ball later.

7:59: Strasburg recovers and gets the final out on the very next pitch.

8:06: The Nationals execute the perfect hit and run. Pudge hits right to the second base hole.

8:10: Strikeout number seven for Strasburg.

8:13: Strikeout number eight on a 99-mph fastball right down the plate. Sorry, Kastens. You’ve proved again why pitchers should not hit.

8:24: Strikeout number nine–a 91-mph change-up to McCutchen

8:26: Strikeout number ten–a 99-mph fastball upstairs. He’s thrown 78  pitches and recorded ten strikeouts. That’s efficiency.

8:27: He strikes out Milledge on a checked swing in the dirt. That’s three strikeouts in just over three minutes. The K count is now at 11. The last time a Nats pitcher stuck out this many in one game was September 21, 2008, when Odalis Perez struck out 11 Padres. The most strikeouts collected by any Nationals pitcher since the move to Washington is 13. John Patterson did it on August 4, 2005, against the Dodgers, and then completed the same feat on April 15 of the following year at the Marlins.

8:33: Two-run home run for Adam Dunn to the upper deck–second row of section 239. This place is rockin’ like Game 7. There can never be too many World Series references in this post.

8:35: It’s hammer time! Willingham hits one to the opponent’s bullpen for back-to-back home runs.

8:37: I don’t know how many people are here for the first time, but I’ve run into quite a few. I asked three girls what all the commotion was about and they responded that some guy named “Strawzzzzburger or something” was pitching.

8:43: The girls found their way to the All-Star balloting location. They filled out their ballot and got a free Nationals T-shirt.

8:48: Strikeout number 12 to Garrett Jones. This is five straight strikeouts.

8:49: The whole stadium erupts as Strasburg strikes out his 13th batter, sixth straight batter.

8:50: Everyone is on their feet. Literally everyone. Except for me. I’m sitting down so I can type.

8:51: Make that seven straight batters. Strasburg just broke the record for most K’s as a National, 2005-present. It looks like he’s pitching to high school batters. Well, then again, they are the Pirates.

8:53: Willie Harris bats for Strasburg. Strasburg’s final line: seven innings, two runs, two earned, four hits, 14 K’s, zero walks and one home run. He threw 94 pitches, 65 for strikes.

8:59: Strasburg ends his night by emerging from the bullpen long enough to tip his hat to the fans who are wildly cheering.

9:00: Nyjer Morgan salutes the fans at center field. He thinks he may have something to do with the wild cheering.

9:21: It’s the final countdownnnnnnnnn…

9:22: Capps records the 17th strikeout for the Nationals, tying the team record (2005-present) set on April 17, 2008. But those Nationals pitchers needed 13.2 innings to accumulate the 17 K’s.

9:25: Capps picks up his league-leading 19th save and Strasburg picks up his first Major League win.


stras pied by lannan.jpg9:29:
Strasburg gets the inevitable pie to the face from pie master, John Lannan. Lannan has been looking forward to this moment since last June.


 Seconds later:
Scott Olsen gives him the towel to wipe off, but then pies him again, as Nyjer Morgan drops the Elvis wig on his head. It’s like helping someone get up only to throw them back down again. Congrats, Player of the Game and welcome to the Big Leagues.

9:30: The Park begins chanting “Ste-phen Stras-burg!” The expectations laid on Stephen Strasburg tonight seemed unreasonably high, yet he still managed to exceed them. Drew Storen said when Strasburg went from Double-A to Triple-A he took his game to the next level and he couldn’t wait to see what Strasburg would do when he finally made it to the Majors. Well, we just witnessed Strasburg raising the bar yet again.

9:44: “I thought I was going to be a lot more nervous than I really was,” Strasburg said.

9:45: “I’ve caught a lot of guys, but this guy is unbelievable,” Pudge said.

9:50: “The only thing I really remember was the first pitch, and the ball was inside,” Strasburg said. “Everything else is such a blur. At one point I even lost track of how many innings I had. … It’s kind of like getting married. You tell yourself you want to go out and remember everything. And once it’s done, you can’t remember anything.”

Inside Pitch Live with President Stan Kasten


Stan Kasten 1.jpgNationals President Stan Kasten spent 20 minutes on Saturday in the PNC Diamond Club fielding questions from fans for the fourth installment of Inside Pitch Live. There wasn’t a topic that was out-of-bounds.

SK: I’ll get to your questions right away, but before I do, let me tell you why this is a particularly exciting time for me. Usually when I do a speech, the first question I get isn’t always the same. Except for the last few months the first and only question people ask me is, “When is Strasburg coming up?” Fortunately, I’m getting really close to not having to hear that question anymore, and we can get back to the other question I’m always asked, which is, “When is Teddy going to win?” Now, the answer is always the same: I don’t know, I don’t know.

It’s a really exciting time, as everyone in this room, in this stadium, in this city, in this country knows. We’re thrilled to be in the center of attention in the baseball world both on Monday, as we have the No. 1 pick in the draft, and then again on Tuesday, as last year’s number one pick in the draft makes his Major League debut, keeping your fingers crossed at all times.

Do you care to comment on the couple instances with the umpires that have been going on lately?

I have been in sports for 30 years, including 11 as a GM in three different leagues, so I’ve had my battles with the umpires and the referees since the beginning. In fact, I will tell you, the oldest storied custom in this country, dates back more than a century, and it’s fans going to a ballpark screaming “Kill the ump!” That’s just the nature of our business. We’re never going to agree with all their calls. Their percentage of getting things right is breathtaking. It’s unbelievable how often we complain out there, we go back into the clubhouse or the video room and find out that they were right and we were wrong. Now, we’ve had some celebrated instances, including one other horribly unique instance in this last week. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen often enough. But it gives rise to the question of instant replay. I’ll tell you my view on that. I don’t think the day will ever come where every call is an instant-replay call. But I do think there’s going to be a bit of an evolution in our use of technology. We don’t want to slow the game down. We don’t want to unnecessarily distract them. But more and more I think we’re going to see exceptions like we have in baseball over the last few years with unique circumstances that we say, “Okay, let’s go to the videotape.” I think time will evolve and we will continue to have more exceptions. If there’s a better way for us to get the call right, I think we’ll do that. As traditionalists, we’ll continue to fight against that. But I think that little by little, we’ll continue to evolve and have more use of this replay, though it’s not going to be sudden. It’s not going to take over the game anytime soon, but we’ll continue to have an evolution in its use, including, I think, cases where maybe the call the other night with the perfect game might have been overturned. There is no mechanism today in place to do that. But it wouldn’t surprise me if we got to that time, with a system, with exceptions that allowed momentous occasions with obvious mistakes to be overturned. It wouldn’t surprise me, although there is no mechanism for that today.

This is a little off topic, but can I have your autograph?

Yeah, and that will be the cheapest thing here at Nationals Park. There will be no charge for that. Do you have a camera? You can take a picture too.

He said it was a little off topic, I thought we were going to go to the Middle East or the oil in the Gulf. Fortunately it was one I could answer.

I’ve been following baseball since 1951. I’m an old guy.

That’s before I was born.

Right. I don’t know if you can honestly give an answer to this because of your position, but when Richie Phillips pulled the stunt and had the umpires resign several years ago, why in the world did baseball take back the most arrogant umpire in my lifetime, Joe West?

Well, I’ve had similar conversations with baseball people recently. You should know that historically, Joe has been a highly rated substantive umpire. Yes there are people who have issues with him that don’t involve the substance of his umpiring. But I think in the settlement that came out of the labor action, there were a lot of good things for baseball. We want the best umpires in the world. I think at the time the decision to bring back those umpires was made, Joe would have been in that class of umpires who are among the best in the world.  That’s the short answer for that. I think you’re asking that because of other more recent events.

He’s so arrogant.

The funny thing about arrogance, this is a subject I know a lot about (laughing).

And confrontational.

I once wrote an essay about this because I worked with the different leagues and the leagues are all similar on this subject. Yes, arrogance and confrontation can be a problem, but when you look at the profile, the psychological profile, of guys that we want, too often, it’s all the traits that lead to arrogance are the guys that we want–guys with strength, the guys that will believe in their call, that will not back down out there. Now, those are the kinds of things we want in a good umpire. And too often the line is too fine and crosses over into arrogance. So that’s the reason why you often see umpires whom you would describe as arrogant, others might say that’s also a personality trait that is good. The short answer as to why we have some many umpires that appear arrogant. That’s actually a flip side to a really good trait.

Would you rather have a better pitcher or a better hitter?

That’s a good question. Historically, baseball guys would tell you that they would take the everyday position player because he plays every day. Because if you get a starting pitcher, your starting pitcher is going to give you, let’s say, six innings, 30 times a year, whereas a position player is going to give you nine innings, 160 times a year. Having said that, though, there’s another element and that goes to the importance of modern-day starting rotations. This offseason, we counted No. 1 starters in baseball. We counted 18 of them. Period. Now maybe it’s 15. Maybe it’s 22, depending on your definition. But they are extremely rare. If you have one, you’re ahead of the game. If you have two, you are competitive. If you are one of the rare teams that has three, you are a contender almost no matter what else you have going for you. I think I’ll modify my answer by saying if I had a No. 1, I’d take a No. 1 over an everyday player, but if it’s anybody else, then I think you take the everyday player.


Stan Kasten 2.jpgHypothetically, say you take Bryce Harper with the first pick. Do you foresee him being in the Majors in several years? And would you make him a catcher or play right field?

I’ve never seen Bryce in person. Everyone on our staff has multiple times. So I’ve had a lot of conversations about it and honestly I know quite a bit what scouts think. I think they believe that he is a kid who is well-developed for a 17-year-old, mentally and physically, and that he will have a short path to the Major Leagues, especially if he signs really quickly. I’m just saying, okay? I’m just offering advice. In addition, the baseball people I talk to think his bat is so advanced, he’d be better off in the outfield, where he has an above-average arm, wouldn’t have the wear and tear or the learning curve that a catcher would need. I think a catcher might take three, four, or five years from a 17-year-old to really make it up here, whereas an outfielder could be here in three years maybe. That’s what I think most baseball people feel. Did I mention the point about the desirability of signing early? I think that would really help him.

I read, this may not be true, that Roy Oswalt would not be averse to joining the Nationals. What would it take for the Astros to trade him?

I happen to know that team is looking for an established Major Leaguer and a premier, ready-to-go prospect, a very top prospect, in a package of other things. Now do they get that? Hard question about whether they get that. But right now, we are currently not in a buy or sell with Roy. I know their owner very well. He’s close personally, very close personally, with Roy, and in the back of his mind, he hopes they never trade Roy. So they’re not giving him away or even trading him cheaply at all. They want 100 cents on the dollar or more.

I know Strasburg is great, but do the Nats have their eyes on Danny Hultzen?

We follow everyone. Do we have our eye on him? Do we know about him? Of course we do. Do we have people scouting endlessly? Of course we do. I can’t tell you what his future is going to be, and we can’t talk about players until they are drafted anyways, but you bet. We know about him. It’s a complicated process, the drafting and scouting process, but we have an army of guys, whether full-time or part-time, dozens and dozens of people, looking at, in any one draft, over 1,200 different players in America. And we have reports on all of them. So the answer is, if he’s playing baseball in America, and if he’s a high school senior or anywhere in college, we know about him and we’re watching.

Word through the grapevine is Philly fans have already started getting buses to ship their fans down here for the July 31 game. After Opening Day, which was really not the greatest time for Nats fans due to their presence, are you doing anything to counter this?

It is a good question and none of us are happy about Opening Day. And we’re still not completely sure why all of it happened, because there was nothing done differently for this Opening Day than has been done for other Opening Days, or for Yankee games, or for Red Sox games, etc… But we have taken steps to change things for the next time. Now, we’re reluctant to talk about the specific steps we’ve taken. So we’re trying to be strategic about it, but both in the use of tickets, the crowd control in the ballpark–all of those things, we’re going to take steps that we haven’t had to take before. My guess is it’s going to be a very good game. I think people will look back [on Opening Day] and realize it was an anomaly for various reasons. But yes, we take it very seriously. We don’t at all want what happened on Opening Day to ever happen again.

From the very beginning after Strasburg signed, you and Mike Rizzo said, “We have a plan.” Now that we’re on the cusp of his Big League debut, can you just reflect a little bit on the plan? Does it always go this easily? I mean, obviously the answer is no, but can you talk about that?

Over the years, I’ve had a bunch of good teams and an awful lot of good players, but I’ve never had this kind of attention or focus on any one player ever. Mike had a plan, not only after we signed him, but Mike had a calendar and a plan that we gave to Stephen before we signed him. We all had lunch a couple of weeks before he signed, and we laid out what we thought would happen. We were all aware it would have to be adjusted day-to-day, and it was. He got in the Fall League, just as we expected that he would, came to Spring Training and had great development. It wasn’t until Spring Training that Mike and Spin Williams, our pitching coordinator could really get into details about where we should send him and how long we should send him. I think we’ve always thought the right thing would be three to five starts in Double-A, assuming he was ready for Double-A, which became clear early that he would be…three to five starts in Double-A, three to five starts in Triple-A. Our preference would be an opening at home because we could control the environment better at home–that means media, that means access to fans, access in the locker room, control the field conditions in case it rains… But it was an adjustment.

This is an extraordinary talent. Now he has to come up here and use all the skills, the talent that he has. He’s going to learn a lot up here, but Mike feels like he’s learned all that he can learn in the Minor Leagues.

 

You still have a chance to watch Stephen Strasburg at Nationals Park

In response to the high demand for tickets to Stephen Strasburg’s debut game on Tuesday, June 8, the Washington Nationals will offer fans the opportunity to purchase individual Suite seats for the first time in Nationals team history on Monday, June 7 at 1:00 p.m.

 

Fans may purchase seats in the Party Suites (located above Left Field on the Club Level) for $95 apiece or the Jefferson Suites (located on the Club Level between 1st and 3rd) for $145 apiece. Guests who purchase suite tickets will enjoy contoured leather seats, access to the Stars and Stripes Club and both indoor and outdoor seating. Suite tickets are only available online or by calling (202) 675-NATS(6287). There is a two-seat minimum for purchase of these seats.

 

The Nationals will also make 2,000 Standing Room Only tickets–at $10 apiece–available on Tuesday at 1:00 p.m. at the Nationals Park Main Box Office.  Nationals Park features wide, open concourses with fantastic sightlines for fans to enjoy the game from all angles. There is a two ticket limit per person. Additionally as is our standard practice, 400 Grandstand Seats, priced at $5, will be made available at 4:30 p.m. when gates open.

 

Nationals Park gates will open at 4:30 p.m. for Tuesday evening’s game and fans are encouraged to arrive early and avoid delays associated with a sell-out crowd. All areas of the ballpark will be open including the Miller Lite Scoreboard Walk featuring live music by The Lloyd Dobler Effect.

Rubber Match lineups

Reds (32-24):

1.    Orlando Cabrera – SS

2.    Miguel Cairo – 3B

3.    Joey Votto – 1B

4.    Brandon Phillips – 2B

5.    Jay Bruce – RF

6.    Laynce Nix – LF

7.    Drew Stubbs – CF

8.    Corky Miller – C

9.    Bronson Arroyo – SP (5-3, 4.92 ERA)

* With yesterday’s 5-1 victory, the Reds snapped a four-game losing streak against the Nationals.

 Nationals (27-30):

1.      Cristian Guzman – 2B

2.      Nyjer Morgan – CF

3.      Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

4.      Adam Dunn – 1B

5.      Josh Willingham – LF

6.      Roger Bernadina – RF

7.      Ian Desmond – SS

8.      Wil Nieves – C

9.      Craig Stammen – SP (1-2, 5.88 ERA) 

* Thanks to Ryan Zimmerman (11), Adam Dunn (10) and Josh Willingham (10), the Nationals are one of only four big league clubs, and the only NL team, to sport three players with double-digit home run totals. The other three teams are the White Sox, Rangers, and Blue Jays.

* In 26 games dating to May 9th, Adam Dunn is hitting .317 (32-for-101) with 11 doubles, a triple, four home runs, 15 RBI and seven walks.

Strasburg Sightings

It’s no secret anymore. Stephen Strasburg will make his Major League debut this upcoming Tuesday. However, thanks to widespread speculation that June 4 would be the day, Nationals Park was filled with fans in Strasburg jerseys last night. See below…

 
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