Phenom

Upon reviewing the Twins’ limited interleague play schedule, I learned there will be no Washington Nationals’ visits to Target Field this season.

Looks like I may have to check out Wrigley, or MIller Park. I’ve got to see this Strasburg kid pitch.

The kid, for those who don’t follow Major League Baseball – or for that matter, haven’t watched the national news this week, as he’s been virtually everywhere – is Stephen Strasburg, the biggest newsmaker to come out of the nation’s capital since health care reform. He’s 21 years old, he’s last year’s No. 1 draft pick, and he finally got promoted to the majors with the weight of the world on his prized right arm. And, incredibly, the young man not only didn’t blink, he dominated in a way even most veteran pitchers can only dream.

In his first-big league start Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Strasburg allowed a two-run homer and virtually nothing else in seven innings of work. Watch a highlight film of the game and even a casual baseball fan can get an idea of just how untouchable he was. Strasburg has a fastball that its peak tops 100 mph, and a curve that has both speed and sharp, late break to it. In all, he struck out 14 baters in his seven innings, including his last seven in a row. Impressive, indeed, but even more amazing was another stat line: no walks. That kind of strikeout-walk comparison is very rare, and to think Strasburg did this when the world was watching speaks volumes about his confidence and poise.

Strasburg was on the mound today at Cleveland, and I’ve got to admit that shortly after noon – while down at the Daily Globe tent at the Windsurfing Regatta – I started checking my BlackBerry to see how he was doing. And, sure enough, he picked up right where he left off Tuesday, wiffing the first two Indians he faced in the bottom of the first before retiring the side on a lineout.

There was a hiccup in the bottom of the second when Travis Hafner – the Jamestown, N.D.-area product – blasted a homer leading off the frame. But that was more or less it for the Tribe for the next few innings. Strasburg struggled with his control at times, walking five, but I understand he was bothered by the mound at Cleveland’s Progressive Field and the grounds crew came out more than once to fix it. He still struck out eight and allowed just two hits and the one run over 5 1-3 innings of work.

So … the next big thing is 2-0 and looking very strong, though many will point out that the Pirates and Indians aren’t exactly the most formidable opposition. Yes, it will be interesting to see what Strasburg does when he faces a division-contending team, but I’m still giving the young man a ton of credit. I don’t care who you’re pitching against; 14 Ks and no walks is worthy of a huge tip of the hat.

I’ll wait eagerly for Strasburg’s next start. In the meantime, I’ll have to settle for the remarkable Ubaldo Jiminez coming to Minneapolis this week, where he’s scheduled to throw against the Twins Thursday afternoon. The guy is 11-1 with a microscopic 1.16 ERA so far this season. Strasburg, however, may make most baseball fans forget about even those kinds of numbers before too long.

 

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