Strasburg to debut vs. Pirates on June 8
Highly touted No. 1 Draft pick 'is ready to go,' Nats GM says
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have decided that right-hander Stephen Strasburg will make his Major League debut on June 8 against the Pirates -- provided that a rainout or injury doesn't stand in the way.
"We believe he is ready to go," general manager Mike Rizzo said on Monday. "We like that Stephen could bounce back from tough outings."
Strasburg, 21, will become the fourth first-round Draft pick -- third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and pitchers Ross Detwiler and Drew Storen are the others -- in Nationals history to reach the big leagues.
Strasburg is scheduled to make his final Minor League start on Thursday for Triple-A Syracuse in Buffalo. Strasburg will throw six innings or 95 pitches, Rizzo said.
"It's exciting, obviously. He has worked hard to get where he is at," Zimmerman said. "But I think it's exciting for us. Every fifth day, he gives us a really good chance to win. I think that's the goal here. We continue to develop guys that we draft like Storen and Stras.
"Ultimately, we'll have a good group of core guys that we drafted to go along with guys like me, Adam Dunn, Hammer [Josh Willingham] and those kind of guys. Ultimately, we'll have a very competitive team."
Strasburg, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, has been dominant in the Minors thus far, going a combined 6-2 with a 1.43 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 50 1/3 innings for Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse.
"Along with [pitching coordinator] Spin Williams and pitching coach Steve McCatty, we had a plan in place since Spring Training [for Strasburg]," Rizzo said.
Catcher Wil Nieves caught most of Strasburg's games in Spring Training and came away impressed with what he saw from the right-hander.
"He is an unbelievable pitcher," Nieves said. "He is getting his experience in the Minor Leagues. He is doing a great job down there from what I've heard. He is going to help us. He is mature. I know he is going to be strong mentally. It's exciting to add somebody like him to the rotation."
Strasburg's arrival means that the Nationals will have to take someone out of their rotation. Provided that they are healthy, right-hander Livan Hernandez and left-hander John Lannan will remain in the rotation.
There are reports that right-hander Luis Atilano could be the leading candidate to be sent down to Syracuse, but those reports appear to be premature. Atilano is having a far better season than right-hander Craig Stammen, who is scheduled to pitch Tuesday against the Astros. Atilano is 5-1 with a 4.70 ERA, while Stammen has picked up one victory and has a 5.60 ERA.
Right-hander J.D. Martin, who was recalled from Syracuse on Saturday because of a shoulder injury to left-hander Scott Olsen, could be the odd man out. However, Martin is off to a good start, even though he lost the game to the Padres that same day. He lasted six innings and allowed one earned run. Even more impressive is that Martin didn't walk a batter.
The Nationals have a week to make the decision on Atilano, Stammen or Martin before Strasburg is in the big leagues.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.