Strasburg meets and greets in DC
No. 1 Draft pick introduced to fans at Nationals Park
WASHINGTON -- Under sunny skies and with fans filling the seats on the third-base side of Nationals Park, there was pomp and circumstance on the field on Friday afternoon, when the Nationals introduced Stephen Strasburg at a news conference.
"This is amazing," Strasburg said of the crowd. "To play at San Diego State, where we didn't get many fans until this year, this is pretty special."
Washington third baseman Ryan Zimmerman presented Strasburg with a Nationals jersey bearing No. 37.
"We're looking forward to a bright career from this young man," general manager Mike Rizzo said. "He's another one of our bright shining young stars who's going to play in Washington for a long time."
The Nationals agreed to terms with the No. 1 overall pick in this year's Draft fewer than two minutes before Monday's midnight ET deadline to sign drafted players. Terms of the deal were not disclosed by the team, but it's reportedly a four-year contract worth more than $15 million. That exceeds the previous record of $10.5 million that right-hander Mark Prior received from the Cubs after the 2001 Draft.
"It's a tremendous feeling," Strasburg said. "That day [Monday], especially, it felt like it was in slow motion. I started panicking a little bit. At the same time, I was very happy we were able to get a deal done and get an opportunity to play here."
Strasburg said meeting managing principal owner Ted Lerner, team president Stan Kasten, Rizzo, principal owner Mark Lerner and principal owner Robert K. Tanenbaum two weeks ago in Southern California help facilitate the process of getting signed.
"It was putting a name to faces," Strasburg said. "When you meet somebody, obviously you are going to get a better feel on who they are. They really look for, not just getting the best players, but the best people."
Strasburg, 21, went 13-1 with a 1.32 ERA in 15 starts this season at San Diego State University en route to being named the Golden Spikes Award winner. He struck out 195 batters and issued just 19 walks in 109 innings.
The Nationals believe Strasburg can make an early impact in their rotation in the near future, maybe as soon as next year.
"The Strasburg signing greatly impacts the Minor League system and the Major League ballclub, but I have to reinforce this: He can't be viewed as the savior of the organization, because as we've seen with Jordan Zimmermann, the shelf life is sometimes pretty quick," said Rizzo, referring to the Nationals rookie pitcher whose season ended last month because of an elbow injury.
"But we are hoping he is the player we think he is. I know he is the person we think he is. He is a tremendous makeup guy. This guy is what you are looking for in your No. 1 ace, Major League starter."
Strasburg will stay with the team until Sunday and then go to Viera, Fla., to get his arm back into pitching shape, since he hasn't pitched in a competitive game since a College World Series regional game in May. The Nationals are planning to have Strasburg pitch in the Instructional League and then play in the Arizona Fall League.
Rizzo said it's highly unlikely that Strasburg will pitch in the Major Leagues this season or at the start of next season.
"Strasburg hasn't pitched competitively since the 28th of May, so typically it's a four- or five-week process to ramp him up [and let him pitch competitively]," Rizzo said. "It's very unlikely [that he will pitch in the big leagues]. We expect to develop him at a usual pace. Hopefully, when he gets to the big leagues, he is ready to be here and he is everything that we think he is going to be here."
In between his last start in college and the introduction on Friday, Strasburg decided to the take the summer off and play golf. But unlike Aaron Crow, the Nationals' first round pick in the 2008 Draft, Strasburg had a positive attitude about signing.
"I worked out a little bit, played a little catch, played a little golf -- be the college kid the last few months," Strasburg said. "So much has happened in a short three years. I'm so thankful that they selected me. I put it in [advisor] Scott Boras' hands to go out there and fight for me. He did a great job. At the same time, I'm extremely excited that I have an opportunity to play."
It was more than talent that impressed the Nationals. According to Lerner, they loved Strasburg the person.
"What has impressed me the most is how he has handled the fame at such a young age -- he showed a lot of maturity," Lerner said. "We saw a lot of that when we had our lunch with him in California. We all walked away saying, 'That's a young man with a good head on his shoulders.' That's very impressive to me."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.