Tag:Stephen Strasburg
Posted on: June 13, 2010 8:19 pm
 

Strasburg-Storen could be winning combo for years

CLEVELAND -- Sunday was the perfect glimpse into the future for Washington, and it wasn't simply because Stephen Strasburg was nearly unhittable again.

No, the future came in the combination of Strasburg and the Nats' other first-round pick last year, Drew Storen.

Storen, who beat Strasburg to the majors by a few weeks, relieved him in the sixth inning with one out, the bases loaded and the Nationals leading 6-1 Sunday. Storen induced a pop to second from Russell Branyan and then struck out Jhonny Peralta to end the threat.

It was the first time Strasburg and Storen, the Nats' closer of the future, have formed a tag team in the majors.

It should not be the last.

"I think I've blown two no-hitters for him this year [in the minors]," Storen said, chuckling. "Not tight spots like that. Hopefully, that's the first of many to come."

Storen and Strasburg now have been teammates in the Arizona Fall League, Double-A, Triple-A and, now with the Nats.

And while Strasburg is getting about 99.9 percent of the buzz, Storen now has inherited 12 runners and has not allowed any to score.

When he left the bases loaded Sunday, it not only helped preserve Washington's victory, it helped keep Strasburg's ERA low. It's 2.13.

"I was telling him I was probably more fired up for him in his last outing than I have been for myself in any of my outings," Storen said.

Likes: Washington third-base coach Pat Listach getting razzed from the elephant-memoried fans in the stands behind him who still hold a grudge that he won the 1992 AL Rookie of the Year award, when he was playing for Milwaukee, over Kenny Lofton. "A security guy came by and said, 'You know, your Rookie of the Year award is in dispute around here,'" Listach said, chuckling. "It was a long time ago, but these fans here are good. They don't forget anything. ... Paul Hoynes' press box hawk call Sunday. It's a Friday night tradition around here with Hoynes, the long-time beat writer for the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, but he was off Friday and Saturday and so Sunday was this week's makeup date. He's been doing it for the better part of three decades now. At one time on Fridays they had a press box pool as to what inning Hoynes would do it. Not sure if that's still the case, but it's one of those cool and quirky moments in baseball that you appreciate -- even if it doesn't carry the Strasburg hype. ...The crawfish etouffee and gumbo at Fat Fish Blue, a downtown Cleveland Cajun joint.

Dislikes: Come on Tom Izzo, stay put at Michigan State. You don't belong in the NBA. You're too good for the NBA.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"It's a long way from Cedar Riverside to Cedar Sinai
"Three times St. Paul to Cheyenne
"And it's a long way from Sacramento too
"We were bored so we started a band"

-- The Hold Steady, The Sweet Part of the City

Posted on: February 24, 2010 4:47 pm
 

Sliding feet first with Nyjer Morgan, + Strasburg

VIERA, Fla. -- On the other side of the Stephen Strasburg Watch here -- and I'll get to that in a minute, because the kid is DEFINITELY worth watching -- the Nationals, believe it or not, actually are spending time on a few other things.

One of those is teaching outfielder Nyjer Morgan -- and others -- how to slide feet first.

If you've ever been one of those guys (or gals) watching a game when a player injures himself sliding head first into a base and you're reaction is, "Why do they risk getting hurt by doing that?!", then Nationals manager Jim Riggleman is going to be your kind of skipper.

Morgan missed the final 34 games of the season last summer when he broke his right hand sliding headfirst into third base against the Chicago Cubs in late August. To that point, he had been terrific in Washington, hitting .351 with 24 thefts.

The Nats were a completely different team with him gone, going 13-21 to finish the season.

Thus, this spring's project. Riggleman is the point man and his coaching staff is right there with him.

"Collectively, we're all encouraging it, and he's all on board," Riggleman says. "He was coming into camp saying, 'I've got to do this.' We want to get it done before games start."

Morgan isn't alone. Outfielder Justin Maxwell and anybody else who fancies sliding head-first is being asked to change, too.

"Our message to the guys, not just Nyjer, is, we'd like to get you to go feet first," Riggleman says. "If it's causing more problems than it's solving and you can't do it, then OK. But we've got to give it an effort."

Riggleman, an old school baseball guy, has made sliding feet first his pet project before in other places at other times.

"It's been an emphasis for me, personally," Riggleman says. "When I was the Cardinals' minor-league field coordinator, I asked my bosses and received permission to institute it throughout the system. From the '05 draft on, it was mandatory: You slide feet first.

"From the day they were drafted, we got them off of the plane and it was, 'Hello, how are you doing? You're going to slide feet first.'"

Riggleman says that Pete Rose always has been one of his favorite players, but he thinks a "generation" of players has grown up not knowing how to slide because everybody was too busy imitating Rose, figuring that headfirst slides are one way to show you're hustling.

Morgan, who grew into the Nats' sparkplug after they acquired him from Pittsburgh last summer, has been looking fairly natural going into the base with his feet, Riggleman says.

*****

Now, Strasburg.

I stopped in Viera on Tuesday while driving across the state, just in time for the top overall draft pick from last summer to throw his second bullpen of the spring.

And?

"I thought he threw good the other day," Riggleman said. "Today was off-the-charts good."

Only after a rocky beginning, though, because, truth be told, even the kid who is being talked about as possibly the greatest pitching prospect ever in the draft isn't completely built of steel. For a second, he buckled when he saw who was catching him: Pudge Rodriguez.

"It was a little nerve-wracking at first," Strasburg said. "He's a future Hall of Famer. I was thinking, 'Don't throw one at his ankles first pitch' and, sure enough, I did."

The nerves didn't last long, and Strasburg recovered quickly enough to go off the charts, in Riggleman's words.

In Strasburg's words, he learned a few things from Rodriguez during the bullpen session. He said Pudge worked with him on his sinker and changeup, suggesting a few approaches such as working both sides of the plate with the changeup rather than just the "arm side."

In college at San Diego State, Strasburg said, because of the aluminum bats, "the changeup is only a pitch you throw to left-handers." But with wood bats and precise execution, he said, that pitch should be one he is able to develop and throw to right-handers in the pros.

Already, he throws a four-seam fastball that touches 100 m.p.h., the change-up (clocked around 90), and a breaking ball in the high-80s and the sinker. He's been working with a circle-change as well, and he says he's getting some "good, consistent sink" on it.

Conventional wisdom still has Strasburg, 21, opening the season in the minors -- probably Class A Potomac, because it's Virginia (Woodbridge) location offers better weather than the colder early season conditions at Double-A Harrisburg (Pa.) or Triple-A Syracuse (N.Y.).

Sunblock Day: Not really. Gray skies and rain have moved back in, and the forecast for this weekend in central Florida is for chilly temps in the 50s and low 60s. Ugh.

Likes: Under general manager Mike Rizzo and manager Jim Riggleman, there is a decidedly different air in Nationals camp this spring. It's by far the most professional atmosphere I've seen since the club moved to D.C. for the 2005 season. I'm not saying they're ready to contend, but I think they've got the right people in place in management and some really good young talent. Strasburg and Drew Storen, the club's future closer who also was a first-round pick last year, both are wickedly talented and have outstanding character. ... My favorite transaction of the spring so far is Jack Curry to the YES Network. Curry, the former New York Timesman who took the buyout, has too much to offer to disappear into the sunset. ... Didn't stop for Gator Jerky while whizzing past the stand on the Bee Line Expressway here the other day, but thought about it. ... Great steak the other night at Runyon's in Coral Springs, Fla., with one of my all-time favorite editors, Craig Stanke.

Dislikes: There's a dead fish in the parking lot of my hotel. A smallish guy, just laying there, all dried up and disgusting. Head on, eye looking up, the whole shebang.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I got a part-time job at my father's carpet store
"Laying tackless stripping, and housewives by the score
"I loaded up their furniture, and took it to Spokane
"And auctioned off every last naugahyde divan
"I'm very well aquainted with the seven deadly sins
"I keep a busy schedule trying to fit them in
"I'm proud to be a glutton, and I don't have time for sloth
"I'm greedy, and I'm angry, and I don't care who I cross"

-- Warren Zevon, Mr. Bad Example

Posted on: August 18, 2009 12:08 am
Edited on: August 18, 2009 1:22 am
 

Nationals sign Strasburg

Desperate for both talented players and good news, the Washington Nationals got a welcome dose of both late Monday night by agreeing to terms with their No. 1 pick, pitcher Stephen Strasburg, on a major league deal worth $15.67 million, CBSSports.com has learned.

It is a record contract for a draft pick, for more guaranteed money than the $10.5, five-year deal pitcher Mark Prior received from the Chicago Cubs following the 2001 draft. Prior was chosen No. 2 overall that year, behind Minnesota's Joe Mauer.

Washington's deal with Strasburg came just minutes before Monday's midnight EDT deadline following several weeks of a public standoff that gave every indication it would keep the participants on edge until the very end. Mike Rizzo, the Nationals' interim general manager, said that the two sides agreed to the deal at "11:58 and 43 seconds."

Rizzo, who called it a "great day for the Nationals franchise", said on a post-midnight conference call that the negotiations were "an amicable but anxious time."

"We were optimistic for the most part," Rizzo said. "We knew Stephen Strasburg really wanted to play professional baseball and be a member of the Washington Nationals."

The deal is a clear win-win situation for both sides.

Washington is desperate to add talented players to its organization, and Strasburg, from San Diego State, is considered the best pitching prospect in the history of the draft, which started in 1965.

The Nationals were widely viewed to have bungled negotiations with their No. 1 pick last year, pitcher Aaron Crow. They lost rights to Crow when they didn't sign him. Kansas City drafted Crow, represented by Randy and Alan Hendricks, in June and he remains unsigned.

Rizzo called the Strasburg negotiations and last year's Crow talks "mutually exclusive."

As for Strasburg, he said, "Not signing Stephen Strasburg would have been very unfortunate for the Washington Nationals. He is an extremely gifted starting pitcher and has a chance to be a front-of-the-rotation guy. Whenever you lose talent like that, it leaves a hole in your organization."

The Nationals also suffered a huge blow last week when one of their top pitching prospects, Jordan Zimmermann, came up with a damaged elbow. Zimmermann, who was 3-5 with a 4.63 ERA in 16 starts for the Nationals this season, will undergo Tommy John ligament transfer surgery and will be sidelined for a year or more.

The right-handed Strasburg, who was 13-1 with a 1.32 ERA and 195 strikeouts for San Diego State this season, receives a record deal and will begin his professional career now rather than sit out like Crow. Had he not signed, Strasburg could have gone back to SDSU for his senior season, signed with an independent-league team or even, perhaps, gone to play in Japan.

He would have been viewed as a pariah in Washington for turning down a record offer and, worst-case, could have gotten hurt before next year's draft.

As things stand now, Nationals president Stan Kasten says Strasburg could pitch in the Arizona Fall League this fall, spend next spring in the major-league camp and, conceivably, be on the opening day roster in 2010. As for how quickly the Nats will get him moving, Rizzo noted that he hasn't pitched since May 28 and said that the club will evaluate where he's at and come up with a plan.

The Nats can use the help, if Strasburg is as good as advertised and develops as quickly as some scouts think he can. At 43-74, they're on pace for a second consecutive 100-loss season.

"We don't view Stephen Strasburg as the savior of the organization," Rizzo said. "He's just another very bright young star we have in the fold. We're very well endowed with young starting pitchers, and he might be at the top of the group."

Lots of folks think he immediately heads to the front of that group.

"Is he ready for the majors?" one major league scout said in April, repeating a question I asked when doing this piece on Strasburg. "That's tough. I look at him and I look at what's out there. Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez ... he's got better stuff. There's nothing like him in the country, I'll tell you that."

The Nationals, and the rest of us, are about to find out.


Posted on: June 9, 2009 8:22 pm
 

Nats could end up with top two picks in 2010

Largely overlooked in the conversation over whether or not the Washington Nationals will be able to sign first-overall pick Stephen Strasburg is this:

The Nats currently are on pace to easily finish with the worst record in the majors. If they do, they will again pick No. 1 overall in next summer's draft.

If, at the same time, they fail to sign Strasburg, then they will get a compensatory pick in 2010 -- as they did this year (No. 10 overall pick), when they failed to sign their first-round choice from last year, pitcher Aaron Crow.

This happens, the Nats could wind up with both the Nos. 1 and 2 picks in the 2010 draft.

Of course, it would be small consolation. They would be skewered by the many in the media and by their rapidly diminishing fan base in the interim for failing to sign first-round picks in two consecutive years. And the failures would seriously slow the development of their major-league club, such as it is.

But if Strasburg's "advisor", Scott Boras, demands a Daisuke Matsuzaka-like $50 million deal and will not come down, all will not be lost if the Nats stand firm and refuse to pay.

Besides, after Strasburg sits out the year and cools his heels with some independent league team, the Nats could even pick him again next year with one of those first two picks. But Strasburg would have to consent.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com