Strasburg making final Minors tuneup
Rookie phenom preparing for big league debut on June 8
HOUSTON -- Right-hander Stephen Strasburg, the best known Minor Leaguer in the country, will get one more start with Triple-A Syracuse on Thursday before joining the Washington Nationals.
Strasburg, who is scheduled to make his Major League debut, next Tuesday at home against Pittsburgh, will start for the Chiefs against Buffalo live on MiLB.TV at 1 p.m. ET.The 6-foot-4 Strasburg, out of San Diego State, has been mowing down Minor Leaguers this season. "He's pretty much proven everything he needs to prove in the Minor Leagues," Nationals reliever Tyler Walker said. "We're going to welcome him with open arms and treat him like everybody else."
He began the year with Double-A Harrisburg and went 3-1 with a 1.64 ERA in five games. He has put up similarly jaw-dropping numbers for Syracuse, going 3-1 with a 1.27 ERA."This is a tough game. Every night you have to be ready," Walker said. "We're expecting big things from him."
Strasburg has 60 strikeouts and only 12 walks in 50 1/3 innings between the two Minor League affiliates of the Nationals. He has allowed only one home run.Washington manager Jim Riggleman reiterated before Wednesday night's game at Houston that no decision had been made on whom Strasburg would replace in the rotation.
Harris reflects on World Series run in Houston
HOUSTON -- Washington outfielder Willie Harris nodded toward a corner of the visiting clubhouse at Minute Maid Park before Wednesday night's game with the Astros. Harris flashed back to where his locker, No. 1, was for the 2005 World Series when he played for the Chicago White Sox.
Harris pinch-ran in Game 3 and pinch-hit in Game 4, staying in to play second base while his White Sox completed a sweep of Houston.
"I pinch-hit against Brad Lidge, base hit to left field, 2-2 count," said Harris. "I remember everything about it. You never think of a sweep in the World Series. You anticipate it going seven, or six, but a sweep, never really imagined that."
Game 4 was the key when the White Sox won 7-5 in 14 innings on Geoff Blum's pinch-hit home run. Blum had played for the Astros before and is back with them now.
"Geoff Blum, what a great guy," said Harris of his ex-teammate. "It couldn't happen to a better guy. Every time I see him, it's always 'Group Four.' That was our hitting group [during batting practice], the guys who didn't play that much. We did some big things in that World Series."
Harris said he wears his World Series ring only occasionally.
"Sometimes when I'm struggling mentally, when I'm down, I'll wear it to the ballpark, remind myself I'm a champion," Harris said. "It makes me forget about whatever slump I'm in. It's something you can always remember and always treasure."
Harris saw Houston's Lance Berkman again Tuesday night at first base when Harris was hit by a pitch and drove in a run in the eighth inning.
"You couldn't get Berkman out in the World Series," Harris said. "We're both struggling right now. I said [to him], 'They can't keep us down for too long.' He said to me something that's going to stick with me for the rest of my career: 'Willie, I like your attitude.' For someone of that caliber to say that made me feel really good. I don't play a whole lot and you have to have a positive attitude."
Harris said he stays in touch with former White Sox teammates such as Frank Thomas, Carl Everett, Jon Garland and Aaron Rowand.
"That's the best thing about baseball," Harris said. "You're able to build relationships with guys. That's what I like about this club. We have great chemistry and guys care about each other."
Riggleman shuffles lineup order
HOUSTON -- Manager Jim Riggleman shuffled his Nationals lineup a little for Wednesday night's game with the Houston Astros.Riggleman returned Nyjer Morgan, who had batted second the last two games, to the leadoff spot with Cristian Guzman returning to No. 2 in the order. He also flip-flopped Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn, moving Dunn up to third and hitting Zimmerman cleanup. "I wanted Zimmerman hitting behind Dunn today and [Josh] Willingham hitting behind Zimmerman," Riggleman said. "Try to protect them all the best I can. We're struggling a little bit to score runs." The manager changed his order the last two days, hitting Guzman leadoff ahead of Morgan to try to get Morgan going again. He hit only .223 in May. It seemed to work. Morgan went 5-for-9 in the two games, scoring six runs and also drawing a walk. "Tomorrow I'll probably have [Morgan] back in the second spot," he said. "Today I didn't want two and three to be left-handed [facing Houston left-hander Wandy Rodriguez]. I wanted to break that up. Out of necessity I put Nyjer back in the one spot. My plan was to have [Morgan] hit second for a week to 10 days."
Nats look forward to returning home
HOUSTON -- The Washington Nationals conclude their three-city, 10-game road trip Thursday afternoon at Houston. Entering Wednesday night's game with the Astros, Washington is 3-5 on the trip with a .224 team batting average.
The Nationals were looking forward to returning home, beginning a weekend series with Cincinnati Friday night.
"There's no place like home," closer Matt Capps said. "You want to sleep in your own bed. It's tough on the road. It's a different hotel every couple of days, a different clubhouse.
"You kind of look for that familiarity. Houston is a great city and a nice ballpark. One of my favorite cities. But it's four days in one hotel. You feel like you're here for a long time.
"Some guys like to sleep in. Some guys like to experience the city. It's nice here because we stay at The Galleria. You can get up and walk around the mall. I don't like to sleep till 11 [a.m.] or 12 [p.m.]. I feel like I'm sluggish the rest of the day if I do. I'm up by 9:30 [a.m.] or 10 o'clock. Some days I'll go to the gym at the hotel, some days just walk around."
Manager Jim Riggleman didn't feel as if his team is adversely affected by being on the road.
"Certainly we'd rather be home," Riggleman said. "Our guys are veteran players. It's understood you go through times when you feel like you're on the road a lot. They're all used to it."
Outfielder Willie Harris was looking forward to seeing D.C. again.
"You're always anxious to get home and play," Harris said. "It's been a long road trip. It feels like we've been on the road for a month or so. It's our job. It's what we do. But we're all excited about going home, playing in our own ballpark."
Many of the Nationals pass time in the clubhouse before games by playing cards.
"I'm not a card player," Capps said. "But there's a game in every corner of the clubhouse."
Gene Duffey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.