Pirates prep for Strasburg like any other
Posted: Tuesday, June 8, 2010 5:09 pm
By: By ALAN ROBINSON, AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Pirates know all about Stephen Strasburg’s 100-mph fastball, the breaking ball that leaves batters looking foolish and, too, all the millions of dollars the Washington Nationals threw at him to sign.
Still, after facing two-time NL Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum and the Cubs’ unbeaten Carlos Silva in successive days, the Pirates said they won’t be intimidated when they oppose Strasburg in a sold-out Nationals Park tonight in the nation’s capital.
The Pirates are 11 games below .500 and have scored the fewest runs (187) in the National League, yet they’re contending it’s Strasburg that needs to show them something, not the other way around.
Former Nationals outfielder Lastings Milledge’s take: We’ll treat Strasburg just like any other pitcher. Even if he isn’t one.
“You can’t downplay it, it’s a pretty big thing going on in Washington,” Milledge said. “We expect it to be electric. But are we expecting anything different than anybody else? No. We face good pitchers all across the league. We know he’s going to bring it, but he’s got nine tough guys to get out, so we’re going to battle.”
Milledge also said, “He’s got to face nine of the best hitters in the world” — though, based on their stats, that wouldn’t seem to include the Pirates. Their .237 team batting average is tied for the NL’s worst, even though they beat Phillies ace Roy Halladay three weeks ago.
Lincecum didn’t figure in the decision after giving up three runs during the Giants’ 6-5, 10-inning victory in Pittsburgh on Sunday, while Silva allowed only one run in seven innings during a 6-1 Cubs victory Monday.
The difference is those pitchers are experienced and proven, the Pirates said, while Strasburg isn’t.
Pirates manager John Russell said he has seen Strasburg only while watching highlights on TV.
“Some guys have talked about it, and our guys are anxious to play,” Russell said. “It’s going to be a full house. We’d like to spoil the opening debut of Strasburg, so it should be a good pickup for us.”
Strasburg’s opening night might be the most-hyped for any rookie since David Clyde’s debut before a sold-out Rangers crowd in 1973. The 18-year-old Clyde went directly from pitching in high school to the major leagues, and wound up winning only 18 games in the majors despite pitching well in his first two starts.
By contrast, the Nationals nursed Strasburg along, allowing him to pitch two months in the minors before recalling him.
“There’s a lot of hype behind him, he’s been followed his whole career,” the Pirates’ Garrett Jones said. “The way he handles himself, he looks very composed and looks ready for the big leagues. We’re going to try to welcome him with open arms — and do some damage against him.”
The Pirates passed up the chance to match their own former first-round pick, Brad Lincoln, against Strasburg. Lincoln has been dominating lately at Triple-A Indianapolis, but he apparently won’t make his major league debut until Wednesday — a night after Strasburg.
Right-hander Jeff Karstens (1-1), making his fifth start of the season, will oppose Strasburg.
“We’ve got a job to do and we’re going to go there and do it,” Karstens said. “It’s not the first time I’ve pitched in front of a sold-out crowd. There’s a lot of hype surrounding him, and he’s the one who’s got to answer all the questions.”