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06/06/10 6:55 PM ET

Strasburg's hype machine hits big leagues

This isn't your ordinary baseball game. Just ask any Nats fan, and they will tell you that Tuesday's contest between the Pirates and Nationals is history in the making.

Of course, they'd be referring to the debut of Stephen Strasburg, whose arrival on the Major League scene has been one of the most anticipated in recent memory.

"It's going to be a great feeling on Tuesday," Strasburg said after his last start at Triple-A Syracuse.

Strasburg's road to the Majors hasn't been as long as it may have seemed to Nats fans, but he surely impressed every step of the way. He went 3-1 with a 1.64 ERA with Double-A Harrisburg, and then only bettered his minuscule ERA to 1.08 with Triple-A Syrcause, going 4-1 in six starts.

And while it was somewhat contingent on his results in the Minors, his arrival on this date has been in the works for quite some time.

"Along with [pitching coordinator] Spin Williams and pitching coach Steve McCatty, we had a plan in place since Spring Training [for Strasburg]," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said.

Not to be forgotten in all of the Strasburg-mania is the team that gets to greet the phenom: The Pirates.

And the Buccos are just as excited as anyone to welcome Strasburg to the bigs. "It's going to be an electric night," manager John Russell said. "That will be fun. Going to that game, just because it's been hyped up, I think there will be a lot of excitement. We know it's going to be a pretty big night."

Someone had to be the pitcher to oppose Strasburg on his maiden voyage, and for the Bucs it will be Jeff Karstens, one of the most experienced pitchers on their staff. While there is certain to be a lot of room for distraction, Russell said he thinks Karstens is the right man for the job.

"Jeff seems to rise to the occasion," Russell said. "He's very good about blocking things out. I think he really likes that atmosphere."

Karstens might be just as excited about battling Strasburg at the plate as battling him on the mound.

"I think it's going to be fun," he said. "I'm going to enjoy it. I'm excited I get to hit against him -- hopefully crack some jokes and get a hit. It's all going to be fun for me. I don't really take it as something special. If it's a playoff game, then it's different. It's June baseball. He's a great talent. We've seen the stuff, the numbers he's put up in the Minor Leagues. But we're going to go out there and try and spoil it."

Pirates: Lincoln could have debut of his own
The Pirates could have a major debut of their own during this series as there is a distinct possibility the Bucs could call up Mike Lincoln to start Wednesday's game. The Pirates haven't yet named a starter for that game, but on his weekly radio show, general manager Neal Huntington wouldn't confirm or deny that Lincoln's arrival was near. Lincoln has been pitching very well with Triple-A Indianapolis, going 6-2 with a 3.16 ERA to this point. "We're not at liberty to say that Brad Lincoln will pitch that game, nor will I sit here and say Brad Lincoln will not pitch that game," Huntington said. "Brad is definitely a candidate to make his Major League debut Wednesday night."

Nationals: Will Pudge be ready to return?
While Strasburg is locked in for Tuesday, the status of his backstop isn't. While the Nats would love to have veteran Pudge Rodriguez behind the dish, Rodriguez is still rehabbing his way back from a lower back strain and may or may not be ready for the big day. As of Sunday, the plan is for Rodriguez to play in a rehab game at Class A Advanced Potomac on Monday. Then, the decision on his availability for Tuesday, which according to manager Jim Riggleman is "very up in the air," will be made. "In a perfect world, just because it's a unique situation here, I would love to have Pudge catch because it would mean a lot to him," Riggleman said. "He's got a lot of things he has accomplished in his career, and it would be another thing he could look back on."

Worth noting
Third baseman Bobby Crosby is heating up at the plate, lacing two doubles in Monday's loss. ... The Pirates bullpen, which has been a stregnth this season struggled in the contest against the Cubs, allowing three earned runs and four walks in four innings of work.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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