Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Strasburg destined to wear Yankees uniform

They'll be the only club that can afford fireballer

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CLEVELAND -- Stephen Strasburg will look great in pinstripes in 2017.

His agent, Scott Boras, is probably scouting penthouses overlooking Central Park as we speak after the Washington Nationals' phenom improved to 2-0 Sunday with an eight-strikeout performance against the Indians.

That's 22 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings -- albeit against the Pirates and Indians -- for the 6-foot-4 right-hander.

The No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft whiffed 19 before issuing his first career walk to catcher Carlos Santana in the fourth inning. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only one other pitcher since 1900 totaled that many K's before giving a batter a free pass; that was Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto with 22 in 2008.

Strasburg ended up walking five Indians in the Nationals' 9-4 victory. But at this rate, Strasburg may soon be known as Special K.

And with those K's will come barrels of money that only the New York Yankees can afford to roll out when Strasburg reaches six full years of major-league experience and is eligible for free agency.

Seventy-seven seconds before the signing deadline last August, Boras finalized a four-year, $15.1 million contract for Strasburg that was the most money ever given to a drafted player. If Strasburg lives up to the standard he's establishing, he'll eventually make CC Sabathia's contract with the Yankees look like chump change. Sabathia was 28 when the Steinbrenners gave him $161 million in December 2008. Strasburg will also be 28 when he hits the mother lode.

In the meantime, he can make baseball in Washington relevant again and perhaps draw the Tweeting and texting generation to a game that moves at less than 4G speed.

Sunday's attendance of 32,876 was the second-highest of the season at Progressive Field. That included Browns' star Joshua Cribbs and rookies Joe Haden and Colt McCoy, the latter stopping in the Nationals' clubhouse to see former University of Texas quarterback Adam Dunn.

The hype surrounding Strasburg is expected to bring similar spikes whenever he pitches, an effect Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said he hasn't seen nationally in his 17 years as a major-league manager or coach.

"Maybe they did this with (Sandy) Koufax or some others," Riggleman said. "I know that (happened) in Texas when Nolan Ryan pitched at home because people thought it might be the next no-hitter.

"It's great for baseball, it's great for the Nationals. I like that people have something to rally around, a young player they can get excited about."

As much as Strasburg cost them, Washington's owners are being financially rewarded for the dubious honor of owning the No. 1 pick. Strasburg's teammates know they will benefit as well.

"Obviously, the more national notoriety he gets, the team will benefit, it's great for the organization," Dunn said. "What's really good, instead of playing in front of 15,000 or 20,000, you're playing in front of 35,000 or 40,000. That's a lot more fun."

That's also music to a front office's ears, especially to ticket hawkers at a venue like the new Yankee Stadium, where seats go for up to $300 on game day.

Strasburg must prove he can survive the pressure of the microscope he's playing under. That could take down the seemingly sure thing just as likely as injury, especially because he delivers his 100-mph fastballs with an almost effortless throwing motion. Those who know the low key, humble Strasburg don't believe that will happen.

"He's handled everything the right way. He's a pretty grounded kid," said Indians shortstop Jason Donald, who played with Strasburg on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team.

 

-- McClatchy Newspapers

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 14, 2010 C5

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