After dazzling debut, Strasburg sent to minors

Stephen Strasburg was sent to the minor leagues on Saturday by the Washington Nationals, who told baseball’s top pitching prospect he needed to slow down his delivery from the stretch in order to speed up his arrival in the majors.

“I’m not a believer that a player can come from amateur baseball and step right into the major leagues,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. “I’ve seen terrific prospects attempt it and the failure rate is too great. This is a prized asset.”

The Nationals optioned the 21-year-old Strasburg, the top overall pick in June’s draft, to Double-A Harrisburg (Pa.). Easily the best pitcher in spring training for Washington, Strasburg got the news when he reported to Space Coast Stadium the morning after his most impressive spring outing.

He struck out eight St. Louis batters in four innings Friday night in his third spring start. Strasburg, who signed a record $15.1 million contract in August, allowed two first-inning home runs, then settled down and took command.

“It’s all about confidence – confidence in the pitches, confidence going out there That’s the bottom line,” Strasburg said after clearing out his locker and packing his equipment bag. “The knock that people have on me is that I don’t have experience and you’re only going to get experience with time.”

Displaying a fastball that reached 98 mph and a slider-curve hybrid that hitters had trouble reading out of his hand, Strasburg went 1-0 with a 2.00 ERA, allowed eight hits, walked one and struck out 12 in nine innings.

“What he did out there just verified what everybody had been saying. ... He did everything you wanted him to do. I don’t think camp could have gone any better for him,” manager Jim Riggleman said.

Back to rehab for Wood

Kerry Wood went one full season in Cleveland without making a trip to the disabled list. He won’t make it two.

The Indians’ closer, with a long history of injuries and surgeries, could miss two months with a strained muscle in his upper back, an injury that was not initially believed to be serious. Trainer Lonnie Soloff said Saturday that an MRI exam on Wood revealed a “moderate” strain. He said Wood will be out a minimum of six weeks.

While Wood is sidelined, right-hander Chris Perez will take over as Cleveland’s closer.

Short hops

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said that he asked his son to resign from his position with the team because the younger Guillen had made a mistake. Guillen spoke to the media a day after his son, Oney Guillen, resigned from a position with the Chicago’s scouting department in part over comments he made on Twitter that the White Sox sought to tone down. … Toronto pitcher Brandon Morrow said he expects to make his next scheduled start despite being scratched from a game the day before with a sore right shoulder. Fellow right-hander Dustin McGowan was shut down for a week due to a tired arm, one day after pitching in a game for the first time in nearly 21 months. Morrow, acquired from the Seattle Mariners and projected to be Toronto’s No. 3 starter, said he could have pitched Saturday against Atlanta if it was a meaningful game.