08/30/09 2:34 PM ET
Strasburg has first workout with Nats
No. 1 overall Draft pick: 'It's going to be a fun ride'
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
And if that dream finally comes to fruition, perhaps he'll look back on Sunday -- the day it all began.
This was ground zero for Strasburg. It's here, on an empty backfield in the most quiet of mornings right next to the Nationals' Spring Training facility, where his career as a professional baseball player finally began.
Strasburg had a light workout in an adjacent field to Space Coast Stadium, where rehabbing Nationals Jesus Flores, Scott Olsen and Roger Bernadina have also been working out.
"This is a big change in my life, and it's something that I'm going to remember for the rest of my life," Strasburg said.
"It's still a little bit of a shocker being out here, knowing that you're not going back to school. But it's a good thing, and it's going to be a fun ride."
Before that ride begins, Day 1 was more about the fundamentals for Strasburg, who did his work along with the Gulf Coast League Nationals before their noon ET game.
He did some band work, threw from no longer than 90 feet for about 10 minutes, introduced himself to the team in the dugout -- "Hi, my name is Stephen Strasburg, and I'm a right-handed pitcher from San Diego," the man who needed no introduction said -- and worked on the intricacies of covering first base, fielding a bunt and starting a 1-6-3 double play with Minor League pitching coordinator Spin Williams.
"Very reserved, very quiet, very intent on what we talked about," is how Williams described Strasburg. "Quite frankly, I was pleasantly surprised."
The plan now is for the 21-year-old Strasburg to throw strictly off flat ground for about two-and-a-half weeks, then hurl his first bullpen session on Sept. 19.
After that, he will throw in a few simulated games before beginning in the instructional league in late September/early October. While there, Strasburg will start with a three-inning stint and work his way up to five innings and about 80 pitches for the Arizona Fall League.
Strasburg will be playing for the Phoenix Desert Dogs in the AFL along with, among others, righty Drew Storen, the 10th overall pick in this year's Draft. He will then report to Arizona on Oct. 11, as AFL games begin two days later.
Although he won't pitch for Washington this year, the Nationals believe he can make an early impact in the rotation -- maybe as early as next season. For now, though, Strasburg will start from scratch.
"You have all the time in the world here to really hone your game and just make sure you have everything down so when it is time to field a comebacker in the bottom of the ninth to win a championship, you're not going to make that mistake," he said.
As a junior at San Diego State University -- a team managed by Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn -- Strasburg went 13-1 with a 1.32 ERA in 15 starts, striking out 195 batters and walking just 19 in 109 innings en route to winning the Golden Spikes Award.
The Nationals made him the No. 1 overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft, coming to an agreement with the righty and agent Scott Boras until less than two minutes remained to the midnight Aug. 17 deadline to sign Draft picks. That deal is reportedly worth a record $15.1 million for four seasons.
"A lot of different things were being thrown my way, and a lot of the times I wasn't given a chance to be a normal college kid or a normal baseball player, for that matter," said Strasburg, who was introduced at Nationals Park on Aug. 21.
The 6-foot-4 Strasburg will stay here until he flies out to Washington, D.C., on Thursday to continue his workout at Nationals Park. He will then come back down in about two weeks to get geared up for the instructional league.
Williams wanted to make it clear that no matter what amount of money Strasburg got, or how hard he throws, he needs time to develop.
"I think the biggest thing that we all have to understand is that this guy's not going to be a Cy Young Award winner next year," said Williams, who worked with Kris Benson and Jason Schmidt while in the Pirates organization. "It's going to take time to get seasoned."
Strasburg's seasoning started before 7:30 a.m., when he was waiting at his hotel lobby to get picked up and be driven to the Space Coast Stadium complex. It continued at 9:40 when he walked onto the field to take part in his first workout. He threw his first pitch at 9:45 -- a warmup toss of about five feet to rehab pitching coordinator Mark Grater -- and after some tutorials, ended his day when he came off the field at 10:25.
Strasburg is still getting used to all of the attention.
His first response in his 7 1/2-minute news conference was, "I thought I'd get a little peace out here on the field, but you guys follow me everywhere."
Like everything else, though, Strasburg expects to adjust with time.
"I guess it just goes with the territory," Strasburg said. "It's something I have to learn to deal with. But it's good to be out here and throwing a baseball again."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.