Tuesday, May 25, 2010 8:30am
By Miss Chatter
I'm going to go ahead and call June 4th as my best guesstimate of the date Stephen Strasburg makes his MLB debut. I began thinking there was a possibility he'd debut in San Diego on the road, but after last night's shortened start in AAA, I'm fairly confident it'll be June 4th at home against the Reds.
Making his debut on the road didn't seem terribly far-fetched because Strasburg not only attended San Diego State but the city is also his birthplace. While it would be heartbreaking for fans dying to see him take the major league mound for the first time at home, it'd be an honor for him to debut in front of friends and family and save them some travel expense. Drew Storen debuted within driving distance of his home in Indiana after all. On the other hand, as I've learned in karaoke, nerves rattle far worse in front of people you know than a stadium (room) full of complete strangers. If it comes down to a baseball decision based on current injuries if he were to debut on the road, I think many fans would understand but the resulting backlash from others may be on the scale of opening day when Phillies fans filled Nationals Park.
With Scott Olsen landing on the disabled list, a pitcher will need to fill in for his May 29th start. One turn could be missed due to yesterday's day off, but the next time through the rotation needs a body. Since the Nats have returned to .500 ball after a slight dip, do they continue playing to win? If so, it would seem going through roster gymnastics or a short bullpen to call someone up for a spot start or move Miguel Batista into a temporary starting role may not be worth the effort. May 29th would be Strasburg's next start on his current schedule after he started last night against the Toledo Mud Hens in AAA. June 4th pads an extra day in.
I was baffled as to why Strasburg was relieved from his starter duties after only 52 pitches last night. I thought he was at the stage in development where the Nationals planned to stretch him out closer to 100 total pitches in a game. So why pull him at barely over 50? Sure, he allowed a couple hits and the Mud Hens managed to score on him, but the Chiefs and Hens were tied at 2-2 at that point.
If you believe this Letter to the Washington Nationals where San Diegans plead for the Nationals to bring Strasburg up for his debut on the road during the May 28-30 series, they point out the plan for Strasburg has been to pitch 50 innings in the minor leagues, saving about 100 for the major league club. After his five innings last night, Strasburg is already at 45.1 innings pitched. Supposing he goes out for one more start with the Syracuse Chiefs and presumably pitches 5 more innings, he smacks right into 50 total innings pitched in the minors before being called up to the show. If that plan truly is the case still, then Strasburg being pulled last night after five innings makes perfect sense and indicates he will indeed make one more start with the Chiefs, debuting at home the following week.
As others have pointed out, if Strasburg debuts on June 4th, he will get two home starts before the following road trip, and tickets have been going fast for the home stand. To ensure a viewing of the pitching phenom at Nationals Park, fans can still only guess and Stan Kasten quipped to purchase season tickets as usual. I can't imagine the Nationals would give away the ticket sales boon to another team even if they are already reaping benefits of the guessing game, yet starting Strasburg on the road doesn't seem as unimaginable as it did a month ago. Still, I'm sticking with the first week of June, which also guarantees he is beyond the Super Two date.
In the meantime, sports t-shirt designer extraordinaire 289 has designed rocking Strasburg t-shirts just in time for ordering before filling Nationals Park in less than two weeks.