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Yes, he's ready -- but they're not

Posted on: May 25, 2010 1:24 am
Edited on: May 25, 2010 2:54 pm
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Is he ready?

Wrong question.

Are they ready?

Now you've got it.

This isn't a criticism of the Nationals. I can't say I blame them for having Stephen Strasburg begin the season in the minor leagues (delaying free agency by a year), keeping him in minor leagues for two months (basically delaying arbitration by a year), severely limiting his innings and pitches (maybe keeping him healthy for many years), and giving him one final minor-league start later this week (ensuring that he makes his big-league debut at home).

But let's stop asking if he's ready to pitch in the big leagues. He was the best pitcher the Nationals had in spring training. He'd be the best pitcher the Nationals have now.


"He could pitch in the big leagues right now and have success," Triple-A Syracuse manager Trent Jewett said Monday, after the least dominating of Strasburg's four starts for Jewett's Chiefs. "Is he a finished product? No, but I'd say there are a lot of guys in the big leagues right now who aren't finished products."

In a way, I was happy that I saw Strasburg on Monday, on a night when he didn't have his best stuff. All the better to see him compete.

Bill Lajoie, the former Tigers general manager who is one of the best scouts in baseball, always said he wanted to see a player on a bad day, to see if he would give in, or keep competing. This wasn't a terrible day, but there was no doubt that Strasburg kept competing, right up to the point where he expressed some unusual frustration at the Nationals' decision to limit him to five innings (which turned out to be just 52 pitches).

The Nationals are serious about the Strasburg limits, every bit as serious as the Yankees were about their Joba Rules. No one really knows whether all the limits will actually ensure that Strasburg has a long and (relatively) injury-free career, but the Nationals believe these limits give him the best chance, and it's perfectly understandable that they want to protect their investment.

Perhaps things would have been different if the Nationals believed they had a chance to win this year. Despite their surprisingly strong first two months, it's obvious that they didn't believe that.

So when will the Nationals bring Strasburg to Washington? They won't say, and I don't know for sure. But it's almost certain that he won't pitch on the Nats' current road trip (which means no start in San Diego, Strasburg's hometown), and it's very likely that he will pitch on the next Nats homestand, which begins June 4.

Does he pitch June 4, and then June 10, giving the Nationals two huge gates? Maybe so. Or maybe the Nats pitch him June 5, and still bring him back on June 10, the final day of the homestand.

Either way, his debut is coming soon.

Yes, he's ready. And -- almost -- so are they.

(UPDATE, Tuesday, 2:50 p.m.): According to the Washington Post , the Nationals now say Strasburg will definitely pitch again for Syracuse, on Saturday night against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. That would seem to set him up best for the June 4 start in Washington against the Reds.

Category: MLB

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Yes, he's ready -- but they're not

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