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Nats Face Strasburg Decisions

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Provided the Washington Nationals draft pitcher Stephen Strasburg with the No. 1 pick in the June 9 amateur draft, they then arrive at the first decision: determining how on earth to meet his contract demands. Provided they reach a deal with the San Diego State right-hander, they then arrive at the second decision: determining how to handle the rest of his 2009 season.

Early indications suggest that Washington will take a cautious approach, preferring to keep Strasburg in the minor leagues. Even if he does debut in the big leagues, he will not inherit a prominent role, a team source said yesterday. More likely is a September cameo, similar to the one-inning appearance 2007 No. 1 pick Ross Detwiler received months after he was drafted. Such a debut could even be a part of contractual obligations, depending on the demands of Strasburg's adviser, Scott Boras.

Though the Nationals might face public pressure to use Strasburg as a gate attraction and pump his ascension as a landmark moment for the franchise, those on the baseball side believe that Strasburg needs a little more seasoning. Also, they speak of the desire to limit his innings. Already this season, he has thrown 94 1/3 in 13 college starts.

Wagner Ends Comeback

Less than two years ago, Ryan Wagner underwent arm surgery that changed his career. In retrospect, that June 2007 procedure to repair a torn right labrum also ended his career. This week, Wagner, who had been pitching in relief with the Class AAA Syracuse Chiefs, aborted his comeback attempt, informing the Nationals of his retirement.

"It took us by surprise," acting general manager Mike Rizzo said. "He wasn't very effective, but he was still coming off the surgery and trying to come back in the swing of things."

Wagner came to Washington as part of the July 2006 trade that also netted Austin Kearns and Felipe López. With the Chiefs, Wagner had a 6.11 ERA in 17 2/3 innings and 13 games.

Ailing Outfielders

Austin Kearns (hand) and Elijah Dukes (hamstring) were held from the lineup yesterday while dealing with day-to-day injuries.

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