Posts Tagged ‘Washington Nationals’

Strasburg Optioned To Double-A Harrisburg

Stephen Strasburg was the Washington Nationals’ best pitcher this spring. In nine innings, he had a 2.00 ERA (both runs coming on solo homeruns) and a 12-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio.

Despite that, and a recent outing in which he struck out eight Cardinals in four innings, the Nationals optioned Strasburg to Double-A Harrisburg on Saturday.  There are two possible reasons as to why: one, starting him in the minors and keeping him there for awhile delays his arbitration and saves money in the long run, and two, getting him a few professional starts in the relative quiet of the Eastern League will allow him to gain experience and work on his weaknesses before being unleashed on the National League.

About two weeks ago, I wondered about Harrisburg’s schedule should Strasburg end up there. Here are the road dates again through the end of June:

April 8-11 @ Altoona
April 12-14 @ Bowie
April 22-25 @ New Britain
April 26-28 @ Reading
May 10-12 @ Altoona
May 21-23 @ Akron
May 28-31 @ Erie
June 1-3 @ Richmond
June 8-10 @ Altoona
June 15-17 @ New Britain
June 18-20 @ Bowie
June 28-30 @ Portland

Will I be watching the matchups and considering a trip to New Britain in April (it’s only 2 1/2 hours away)? Sure, why not? I could probably get to two of the four games if need be, so it can’t be ruled out. Aside from that, the people of Harrisburg will have something to look forward to for at least a few weeks.

Strasburg might be joined in Harrisburg by fellow first-round pick Drew Storen.  Storen was also sent to minor league camp on Saturday, but the news report didn’t say where he would begin.  In his professional debut last season, Storen saved nine games in ten appearances for the Senators after stops at Hagerstown (Low A) and Potomac (High A).

Seeing Strasburg and Paying the Cost

Sorry I am little late in writing this, but did you know The Battle of New Orleans took place two weeks after The War of 1812 ended?

What do you mean, that was 200 years ago?

Last Sunday on a gorgeous day in sunny Viera, Florida, I saw “The Next BIG Thing” Stephen Strasburg make his second spring start as the Nationals squared off against the St. Louis Cardinals. I was impressed as were the Cardinals.

To be honest, I was a bit surprised by Strasburg’s wind-up. Having never seen him pitch before, I pictured him as more of a straight up and down, standing tall pitcher – a la Mark Prior – but his wind-up reminded me a bit of David Cone, except with only one arm angle.

Unfortunately, the Capital City Messiah only pitched three innings. Then the Nationals featured a litany of has-beens, never-will-bes, and future insurance salesmen. The only names I recognized were Livan Hernandez and Ron Villone.

Of course, the Nationals lost.

Fortunately for me, I didn’t mind. As cliche as this sounds, I was there to have a good time. I met up with fellow BusLeagues writer Will, made friends with the Nats Tiki, heckled Mitchell Boggs of the Cardinals, saw former Mets manager Davey Johnson (now working with the Nationals in some capacity), bought a cheeseburger, almost met Mark Zuckerman of NatsInsider.com, talked blues with a random stranger, and saw people wearing some awesome jerseys, to include a Don Drysdale, an Ozzie Smith, a George Foster, a Johnny Bench, and one that just said “Funk”.

Unfortunately (yes, again), my day at the ballpark almost didn’t happen. Even though I was told there were plenty of seats inside Space Coast Stadium, there were no tickets being sold outside the ballpark.

That’s right, it was a sell-out.

Thank you, Mr. Strasburg.

Fortunately (again), I found someone scalping a ticket. 30 bucks for a 17 dollar seat! For a spring training game! Where the main attraction is only in 1/6 of the action!

I am seeing this more and more every spring. When I was a kid growing up in Central Florida, I used to be able to go to the ballpark right before a game and buy a seat in the bleachers for less than 10 bucks. Now the only team you can do that with is the Pirates.

I know it makes me seem old and crotchety, and maybe I am, but I miss those spring training days. Before teams realized they could capitalize on spring match-ups. Before tickets were 30 dollars each (as they are to see the Yankees).

Before the dark times. Before The Empire.

Speed Bump For Strasburg

Stephen Strasburg is gonna be a bust.  Write it down.

How’s that for some reactionary thinking?

In reality, it is comically early to begin assessing Strasburg’s professional career.  He has made two starts in the Arizona Fall League.  One was reasonably good; the other, not so much.

The latter was Strasburg’s most recent outing, against the Peoria Javelinas.  He worked into the third inning, allowing eight runs on seven hits with four strikeouts.  As noted in the story about the game, he only gave up sixteen earned runs in his entire final season of college.

That’s a pretty terrible point of reference, however, when one considers that all of those runs were scored against college kids, in college games, the last of which took place nearly five months ago.  Those facts clearly illustrate the dual battles that Strasburg is fighting in the earliest stages of his professional career: one, he has to be rusty (pitches have a habit of not doing what you want when you haven’t thrown them in awhile), and two, this is his first experience against professional hitters.

At least Strasburg has the right attitude, though.  In the same story linked above, he said,

“I felt pretty good, but I just wasn’t able to work ahead in the count…I left some pitches up, and I know what I need to fix. Part of getting back into game shape is, you’re going to have some good games and some bad ones. It’s all about learning from it, and I feel I learned a lot from this outing.”

Can you really ask for anything more, especially from a 21-year-old kid?

The Savior Has Landed

Stephen Strasburg made his minor league debut on Friday night, starting and pitching into the fourth inning for the Phoenix Desert Dogs of the Arizona Fall League.  He allowed two hits, struck out two, walked one, kept the ball on the ground, and was voted the 2010 Rookie of the Year after the game.  (One of those things might not be entirely true.)

Strasburg reached the high 90s with his fastball but “wasn’t missing a lot of bats,” according to a scout contacted by Baseball America.  The formula seemed pretty simple: when he got the ball up in the zone, hitters were able to make decent contact; when he kept it down, he got strikeouts and groundouts.  His secondary pitches, a curve and slider, weren’t super-fantastic, but we have to remember: Strasburg hadn’t seen real live game action since the end of May.  It’s gonna take time to work back into shape.

One more item of interest, courtesy of Baseball America’s scout source:

On a long-term basis, the scout sees Strasburg as “a sort of righthanded Dave Righetti. No doubt he’ll begin his career as a No. 1 starter, but later on I can see him being a power closer.”

I think this is the first I’ve heard anyone suggest that Strasburg might follow the Dennis Eckersley/John Smoltz career plan.

The Strasburg Has Landed

Two weeks after finally signing with Washington, Stephen Strasburg has finally started workouts at the team’s facility in Viera, Florida.  The Washington Times’ Mark Zuckerman was one of a handful of media on-hand to check out the former San Diego State star:

This may have been mundane to the extreme, but it didn’t stop four reporters (including yours truly), two photographers and about two dozen autograph-seekers from invading the festivities. Strasburg was clearly fazed and uncomfortable with all the attention.

“I thought I’d get a little peace out here on the field, but you guys follow me everywhere,” he said later inside the lobby of the Nationals’ minor-league complex, his head down, not even wanting to look any of us in the eyes. “I guess it just goes with the territory. It’s something I’m going to have to learn to deal with. But it’s good to be out here and throwing a baseball again.”

I would’ve thought that he’d get used to dealing with all the attention when he was in college, but when you get down to it, maybe it’s the sort of adjustment that some people just can’t make (I know I couldn’t).

What he has to do, then, is figure out what he can do to minimize distraction and focus on doing his job (as Zuckerman points out, the attention he gets now is nothing compared to what he’ll see when he reaches the majors).  That seems to be nearly as important as maintaining his physical health.

It’s Deadline Day For MLB Draftees – Lots To Do, Lots To Do

As mentioned here the other night, today is the deadline for major league organizations to come to terms with the players they selected in June’s First Year Player Draft.  Call me crazy, but this strikes me as one of the more exciting days of the summer.  According to MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo, thirteen first-rounders remained unsigned as of early this afternoon:

Stephen Strasburg (No. 1, Washington); Dustin Ackley (No. 2, Seattle); Donavan Tate (No. 3, San Diego); Zach Wheeler (No. 6, San Francisco); Jacob Turner (No. 9, Detroit); Tyler Matzek (No. 11, Colorado); Aaron Crow (No. 12, Kansas City); Grant Green (No. 13, Oakland); Matt Purke (No. 14, Texas); Alex White (No. 15, Cleveland); Shelby Miller (No. 19, St. Louis); Kyle Gibson (No. 22, Minnesota); LeVon Washington (No. 30, Tampa Bay).

Most of those are likely to agree to terms before midnight, which means that the next seven hours should be very busy for all parties involved and very interesting for casual observers such as myself.  I plan on following along throughout the night (or trying to, at least) and trying to keep Bus Leagues updated as much as possible.

Rumor has it that Baseball America is tracking all unsigned picks in the first ten rounds.  Unfortunately, Firefox does not seem to like Baseball America (or vice versa), so I’ll have to take Alex Pedicini’s word for it.

Update (5:24 PM): Rangers Blog at the Dallas Morning News  web site reports that Matt Purke has been in town for about a week (he’s preparing to attend Texas Christian University if a deal can’t be worked out with the Rangers) and negotiations are ongoing.  Jeff Wilson compared and contrasted Purke’s situation with that of Justin Smoak:

That’s about on par with the Justin Smoak negotiations from last year. That ended well for both sides. Purke, though, seems to have a genuine fondness for TCU, and the Tom Glavine fan has been given No. 47 for next season.

Via the comments section of Nationals Journal at the Washington Post, Baseball America’s Jim Callis is reporting that Donavan Tate has been seen in San Diego and could be close to signing with the Padres.  (How’s that for hearsay?) Tate is a Scott Boras client and outstanding athlete who held a football/baseball scholarship offer from North Carolina as negotiating leverage.

Update (5:41 PM): Saw this somewhere a little bit ago, maybe in that Mayo column linked above, but it also just came to me from CBS Sports via Baseball Musings.  The Tampa Bay Rays do not expect to sign either their first or second round picks.  As David Pinto said in his post, “Losing out on two picks has to hurt.”

Update (5:56 PM): Via Yahoo’s Kendall Rogers on Twitter (@ysportsncaabb) about 45 minutes ago, Shelby Miller passed up Texas A&M to sign with the Cardinals.  Rogers also reports that the Aggies also lost K.C. Hobson, Butch Hobson’s son and Toronto’s sixth-round selection.

Update (6:04 PM): Maury Brown is tracking the remaining draft picks and their bonuses at The Biz of Baseball.  He started with seventeen names, including three supplemental first rounders, and has updated two: New York’s Slade Heathcott ($2.2 million) and St. Louis’s Shelby Miller ($2.875 million).  Both signings are well over the recommended slot for their draft positions.

It is noted in the comments that Heathcott announced his signing on his Facebook page.

Update (6:49 PM): LeVon Washington’s willingness to sign with the Rays has changed greatly from Draft Day to Deadline Day.

Cleveland isn’t getting anywhere with Alex White.

Update (7:22 PM): Kendall Rogers hears good things about Kyle Gibson’s chances of signing, bad things about Alex White’s.

Update (9:38 PM): Jon Heyman says that the Padres are close to close to a deal with Donavan Tate (via MLB Trade Rumors).  Gammons apparently sees that news and raises him: picks two through ten have agreed to terms.  No attribution beyond that, so take it with a grain of salt.

Update (10:47 PM): Alex White WANTS to sign with Cleveland.  The two sides just haven’t been able to agree on a deal.

Supplemental pick Kentrail Davis signed with the Brewers.

Maury Brown has three players signed – Miller, Heathcott, and Davis – and I’ve seen stuff here and there that says Tate has also reached an agreement.  Just outside one hour to go – this will either be one hell of a finish, or an amazing cluster you-know-what for next year’s draft.

Update (10:57 PM): By the way, I forgot to mention that I totally friended Slade Heathcott on Facebook earlier (me and hundreds of others, no doubt).  So now I have a friend named Slade, which is really all anyone should want out of life.

Update (10:59 PM): RumorsandRants on Twitter – “Padres officially just announced signing of No. 3 overall pick Donavan Tate”

Update (11:06 PM): ysportsncaabb – “The Tigers also have signed first-round pick Jacob Turner, who was committed to play at North Carolina.”

Update (11:12 PM): The folks at USS Mariner are offering to sweeten any prospective deal for Dustin Ackley.  The Nationals would like to do the same for Stephen Strasburg, according to Jon Heyman.  One of those “sweeteners” involves actual money.

Update (11:28 PM): Donavan Tate is officially a Padre.

Update (11:41 PM): Twenty minutes, ten first-rounders still unsigned (or at least unannounced).  Maury Brown noted on Twitter earlier this hour that news of Aaron Crow’s failure to sign last year didn’t emerge until after 1 PM EST.

Update (11:46 PM): Seattle has scheduled a teleconference with general manager Jack Zduriencik for 9:15 Pacific time.  Announcing a deal, Mr. Z?  I’m sure he hopes so.

Via Twitter: Will Carroll, Aaron Gleeman, and Kendall Rogers note that Kyle Gibson has signed with the Twins.

Eleven minutes to the deadline.

Update (11:51 PM): And there goes Zach Wheeler.  Picks three through ten are now official.

Update (12:00 AM): Tracy Ringolsby breaks the news that Tyler Matzek signed with the Rockies.  Supposedly, the Nationals were very close with Strasburg as the deadline approached, still awaiting final word.

Update (12:04 AM): Ackley and Green have signed.  Strasburg might have signed for more than $15 million over four years.  Crow, Purke, White, and Washington are left from the first round.  Of those, Crow has the ability to continue negotiating because he is not eligible to return to college.  Purke will go to TCU, White will either return to North Carolina or hit the independents, and Washington, I believe, was heading to Florida.

Update (12:10 AM): As soon as I wrote that, I flipped back over to Twitter (that’s where all my info is coming from at the moment) and saw that Baseball America’s Jim Callis is reporting that Alex White has signed with the Indians.

Update (12:19 AM): I usually hear nothing but good things about the MLB Network, but what little coverage I’ve seen tonight has dropped the ball.  They “broke” the story of Strasburg’s signing at almost 12:15, nearly ten minutes after I saw repeated mentions of it on Twitter, were very late on the Tyler Matzek signing, and for some reason teased Zach Wheeler’s deal before unveiling it as though it was the biggest signing of the night.

And maybe I’m just biased because I think this whole signing deadline thing is kinda fun, but couldn’t they have devoted more in-studio attention to the deadline as the clock wound down?  Showing the late innings of a meaningless Yankees-A’s game and going to commercial at 11:59?  I expect better.

Update (12:29 PM): Well, that’s all for me.  After seven hours, it’s time to call it a night.  My brain can’t handle all this stress, and I didn’t even do anything – guys like Keith Law and Jon Heyman and the guys from Baseball America, who do this for a living and know everything that’s going on and keep it all straight, they amaze me.

All I know is that everyone that was supposed to sign, did sign.  Matt Purke clearly wanted to attend college (and who can fault him for that?) so Texas was in a tough spot to begin with.  It was obvious early today that LeVon Washington wasn’t going to become a Tampa Bay Ray.  And I’m sure we’ll be hearing from Aaron Crow and the Kansas City Royals before too long.

The Clock Is Ticking…

Two days, ladies and gents.  Two days until we learn the fate of Stephen Strasburg, the first overall pick in June’s amateur draft.

Will he sign a record-breaking deal with the Washington Nationals, the team that drafted him?  Or will he spurn the team’s offer and ply his trade in an independent league while waiting to reenter the draft next year?

Consider this possibility: if the Nationals don’t sign Strasburg before 11:59:59 seconds on Monday night, it will be the second year in a row the team failed to come to terms with its first selection (they selected Aaron Crow with the ninth overall pick in 2008).

There are a couple of silver linings, however: when Crow didn’t sign last year, the Nationals received the tenth pick in this year’s draft as compensation.  With that pick they took Stanford’s Drew Storen, who signed on June 10 and is currently pitching for Double-A Harrisburg.  He has appeared at three levels this season, striking out 38 batters and walking only three in 26.2 innings.  That’s awesome.  I’m guessing we see him in a Natinals uniform before season’s end.

Silver lining number two: if Strasburg doesn’t sign, he goes back into the draft next year and the Nationals receive the second overall pick as compensation.  The 2010 draft features Bryce Harper as the likely first overall pick – if Washington finishes with the worst record in baseball this season, they will once again receive the right to select first, meaning they could hold the first two picks in a draft that features two of the top prospects in recent memory.

Who cares if the Nationals wouldn’t take both players (partly because they couldn’t afford both and partly because I think they would need special permission to draft Strasburg again if they failed to sign him the first time around) – it would make for some fun speculation leading up to draft day, wouldn’t it, and the  ratings for the first round would be through the roof.

It is almost exactly two days until these events are set in motion.  Come Tuesday, Strasburg will either be smiling as he holds up a Nationals jersey in front of the assembled Washington media or Scott Boras will be on all the sports channels explaining exactly why they turned down Washington’s offer and what his client’s next move is.