WASHINGTON -- After getting his first in-person glimpse of Stephen Strasburg in Double-A ball, Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said Wednesday the right-hander "certainly needs more work down in the minor leagues."
On the other hand, Rizzo also made sure to classify any attempt to identify areas that could use improvement as "really nitpicking."
Washington's GM said he has a "definitive plan in my mind" for how to move last year's No. 1 overall draft pick through the minors and to the majors.
Rizzo declined to say, though, how many more starts Strasburg might make for the Harrisburg Senators of the Eastern League or whether that plan necessarily would include a stop at Triple-A Syracuse. He spoke after driving back from Harrisburg, Pa., where Strasburg struck out six batters and allowed only one hit in five shutout innings of the home team's 3-0 victory over Reading.
It was Strasburg's third minor league start - and first Rizzo has attended. The pitcher from San Diego State is 2-0 with a 0.73 ERA. He signed a record $15.1 million, four-year contract with the Nationals in August after being drafted in June.
But Strasburg's progress will not depend so much on his ERA or win-loss record. Instead, it will be based on how he learns to prepare to pitch every fifth day.
"We're going to take it start-by-start and see where it leads us. I've got a tentative plan in my mind that I'm not going to share with you guys," Rizzo said before Washington hosted the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday night. "But we see that he certainly needs more work down in the minor leagues. We're going to see him in the big leagues, and when we see him in the big leagues, we hope he's here for good."
Asked if Strasburg will pitch for Syracuse before heading to the majors, Rizzo said: "I have determined that. I'm not going to share it with you right now. But there's a definitive plan in my mind. It's just: When is it implemented? How many things? How many starts? When does he come up? And that type of thing."
The GM praised Strasburg for improving what he has been asked to focus on, such as pitching out of the stretch and hitting, and said his changeup "has come a long, long way, even from when I've seen him in spring training. To me, it's a 'plus pitch' right now. It's an 'out pitch' that he can throw for a strike. So he's doing everything he needs to do to make himself major league ready."
Rizzo did say he would like to see more consistency with Strasburg's fastball, which he left up on occasion Wednesday.
Clearly, Rizzo is keeping close tabs on his organization's prized prospect.
As for Nationals manager Jim Riggleman? Not so much.
"To be honest with you," Riggleman said, "I had no idea that he was pitching" Wednesday.
When he spoke to Harrisburg manager Randy Knorr the other day, Riggleman said, "none of that conversation was about Stephen Strasburg."
"I look forward to the day that I have the opportunity to manage him," the skipper added, "but I don't follow his progress, because I know he's going to progress. I know how talented he is."