The chances appear to be growing that pitcher Stephen Strasburg, the No. 1 overall pick in last year's major-league draft, will be starting June 3 at Coca-Cola Field for the Syracuse Chiefs against the Buffalo Bisons. If Strasburg takes the mound here that day, it's expected that would be his final Triple-A appearance before getting promoted to the Washington Nationals.
Citing unnamed team sources, the Nationals' Web site reported Wednesday night that Strasburg's first start in the big leagues would be sometime between June 8-10 at Nationals Park against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Strasburg's next start in Triple-A is scheduled for Saturday night against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in Syracuse's Alliance Bank Stadium. Assuming normal rest, he would thus be on target to pitch the June 3 game in Buffalo, which is currently slated to start at 1:05 p.m. The Washington Post has already floated the June 3 date as another Triple-A outing. The Post, by the way, has a full Strasburg archive that includes plenty of photos and video.
(8 p.m. update: Ben Wagner, the Voice of the Bisons, reminds me the June 3 game is a previously scheduled telecast on SNY. It will be going coast-to-coast and the Strasburg factor would almost certainly make it the most-viewed Bisons game ever. Too bad it's not a night game. Ratings and attendance would really spike).
Strasburg has gone a combined 6-1 with a 0.99 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 45 1/3 innings for Syracuse and Double-A Harrisburg. He is 3-0, 0.39 in four starts at Syracucse, allowing just one earned run in 23 1/3 innings and posting 27 strikeouts against just four walks. He had a streak of 21 straight scorless innings broken Monday night against Toledo.
Strasburg has drawn big crowds at all of his minor-league stops, including an all-time record crowd of 13,766 for his Syracuse debut and more than 12,000 for his stop last week in Rochester that I took a first-hand look. Dude was impressive.
Strasburg has been so dominant in Syracuse that the the prevailing theory was that the Nationals would start him twice on their first June homestand, likely June 4 against Cincinnati and June 9 or 10 against Pittsburgh, so they could get two large crowds. But Nationals GM Mike Rizzo bristled at the Post for pushing that theory and the team seems to be taking a slow approach with Strasburg's debut.
The Nats are being ultra careful with the 21-year-old who signed a record $15.1 million contract last summer out of San Diego State. He was pulled after just 52 pitches against Toledo and there's talk they want to limit him to only about 100 innings in the big leagues this year, thus pushing back his debut date.
The Bisons' veteran-laden lineup would represent a good test for Strasburg. The Herd was off Wednesday and entered the day's play leading the International League in batting (.282) as well as boasting the league's top hitter (outfielder Jesus Feliciano at .364) and leader in home runs and RBIs (third baseman Mike Hessman, 14/49).
The Bisons open an eight-game homestand Thursday at 10:35 a.m. against Toledo (TWC 13, Radio 1520 AM) in their annual Kids Day game.