Strasburg dominant in Triple-A debut
Nationals prospect allows one hit over six shutout innings
With the first inning of his Triple-A premiere with the Syracuse Chiefs, Stephen Strasburg lived up to expectations.
Three up, three down on 16 pitches, 12 for strikes in just the first inning. His fastball clocked in at 99 mph, and he recorded two strikeouts before taking a seat in the dugout.
The rain in Syracuse stayed away for Strasburg, and the No. 1 overall pick in last year's First-Year Player Draft didn't disappoint from there. He finished after six innings and allowed one hit and one walk with six strikeouts. He was credited with the victory as Syracuse cruised to a 7-0 victory. It was exactly what the record crowd of 13,766 at Alliance Bank Stadium in Syracuse, N.Y., had in mind when it was announced earlier this week that Strasburg had been called up from Double-A Harrisburg.
"He made my job easy," said Chiefs catcher Carlos Maldonado. "I just put the fingers down and he executed every pitch."
Strasburg dominated early, retiring the first 10 batters he faced before allowing a one-out single up the middle by Gwinnett Braves center fielder Matt Young just under the glove of Chiefs shortstop Eric Bruntlett. He quickly recovered, stranding Young at first with a strikeout and groundout to short to end the inning.
"You can't worry about the caliber hitters you're facing," Strasburg said. "You have to worry about what's in your control and that's executing pitches to the best of your ability, and good pitchers should get good hitters out."
Strasburg faced an aggressive Braves offense in the second and third innings, needing only 12 pitches to retire the six batters. All three batters in the second grounded out on fastballs, which never fell below 94 mph. Strasburg fielded the second groundout of the inning himself with a slight bobble and a throw to first before retiring the third batter on a grounder to second.
In the third, Strasburg mixed in his offspeed pitches to devastate batters. He got Braves catcher Clint Sammons swinging on a knee-buckling 81-mph curveball after two consecutive fastballs hitting 96 and 97 mph.
"We'd like to see more changeups, but it's hard to complain about because he didn't need them," said Chiefs manager Trent Jewett. "But when you start facing Major League-caliber hitters on a regular basis you will need them, but being able to filter all that he has thus far been tremendous."
After allowing the lone hit in the fourth, Strasburg opened the fifth inning with a six-pitch walk to first baseman Barbaro Canizares. But Strasburg settled down, getting the next three batters to ground out.
Strasburg induced two more groundouts to start the sixth inning, before catching left fielder Gregor Blanco looking at an 81-mph curveball that caught the corner of the plate.
The crowd knew it was Strasberg's last pitch, and gave him a standing ovation as he headed to the dugout. He finished with the game with 65 pitches, 45 for strikes, against 19 batters. He was relieved by Jason Bergmann.
"It's early on in the season and they're not, as far as a development standpoint, going to want me to go out there and throw a no-hitter," Strasburg said. "That'd be great and everything, but there's a lot I have to learn still, and I'll focus on that."
Strasburg contributed at the plate in his first and only at-bat, a single up the middle on the first pitch of the third inning off Ryne Reynoso.
The rest of the Syracuse offense finished off the game for Strasburg with a 7-0 lead.
The six innings were the most Strasburg has pitched in his Minor League career. After going 3-1 with 1.64 ERA in four starts at Double-A Harrisburg, the callup went just as expected, and it was well deserved.
"He did a real nice job tonight," said Jewett. "I think the focus needs to be on educating and preparing him and allowing him to get the most out of his abilities."
Jennifer McCaffrey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.