The anticipation is nearly over. The 21-year-old with the fastball that approaches 100 mph and the curve that freezes batters is about to take the mound in the nation's capital.
Stephen Strasburg is set to make his Washington Nationals debut tonight. Standing room-only tickets went on sale Monday , all part of a rare Nationals Park sellout. The Internet is humming with offers for good seats. More than 200 requests for media credentials have been submitted, forcing officials to turn a dining area into a work space to accommodate all those reporters with laptops.
For the Nationals, Strasburg’s major league debut is best summed up in one word.
“I’m looking forward to that first outing or two being out of the way,” manager Jim Riggleman said. “I know the attention’s not going to go away completely, but the anticipation of the thing has been building since the draft – and before the draft – last year.”
It’s been a strange odyssey: A No. 1 pick who gets sellout, rock-star, hire-extra-security treatment in minor league cities such as Harrisburg and Rochester. It’s the type of overexposure usually reserved for top picks in the NFL or NBA.
The Nationals are actually having a decent year following back-to-back 100-loss seasons, but everything they’ve done has been overshadowed by talk about a player who didn’t have a locker in the clubhouse, whose debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates has been given its own baseball holiday nickname: “Strasmas.”
“I feel like I’ve been ready,” Strasburg said after his last minor league outing, five scoreless innings for Triple-A Syracuse at Buffalo last week.
There’s not much argument there. It was almost cruel to watch Strasburg overwhelm hitters in Double-A and Triple-A. His combined stats: 7-2 with a 1.30 ERA with 65 strikeouts and only 13 walks in 55ª innings.
The Milwaukee Brewers released struggling pitcher Jeff Suppan during the final year of what was the richest contract in team history when he signed it. The Brewers signed Suppan to a $42 million, four-year deal before the 2007 season. … The Red Sox placed closer Jonathan Papelbon on the bereavement list and activated right-hander Boof Bonser, who had been on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Pawtucket, before Monday night’s game against the Cleveland Indians. … The Dodgers placed right-hander Charlie Haeger on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained right big toe and recalled right-hander Jon Link from Triple-A Albuquerque to fill the roster spot.