Stephen Strasburg Joins Washington Nationals for Workouts Before Heading to Instructional League

Stephen Strasburg takes the field with the big league Nationals, but only for workouts. He will head to the Florida Instructional League later this month.
Stephen Strasburg takes the field with the big league Nationals, but only for workouts. He will head to the Florida Instructional League later this month. (By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
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By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 5, 2009

No matter the evolution of Stephen Strasburg's career, it's unlikely that the Washington Nationals' prized 21-year-old pitching prospect will ever find himself in more of a purgatory. With his first group of professional teammates already finished with their season, with his next formal team not scheduled to play until Oct. 13, Strasburg currently finds himself in the big leagues, a visitor just passing through.

"He's really here because he's kind of at an in-between time," Nationals interim manager Jim Riggleman said.

Friday, for the first time, Strasburg followed the routine of a big leaguer. He reported to work at Nationals Park, stashed his belongings in his own locker and performed early afternoon conditioning drills. Just three hours before the evening's game, Strasburg, wearing his No. 37 jersey, found himself on the field with the big league pitchers, fielding choppers and tossing them to first baseman Adam Dunn.

But for Strasburg, this is all temporary. He's not on the Nationals' roster, nor will he watch games from the dugout.

He is spending a week in Washington for a simple reason: The Nationals have nowhere else to send him.

Strasburg, the No. 1 draft pick who agreed to a four-year, $15.1 million contract on Aug. 17, began his professional career last Sunday in Viera, Fla., performing conditioning drills in preparation for the informal Florida Instructional League and then the more organized Arizona Fall League. But this week, with the end of the Gulf Coast season, Viera emptied out -- and Strasburg lost his workout partners.

"So his teammates are gone," Riggleman said. "So rather than go home and restart, we're just bringing him here to continue his conditioning and work on the field a little bit with [pitching coach] Steve McCatty, let everybody kind of get a look at him. The only thing he's gonna get out of this is continued conditioning and preparing himself for the instructional league."

Strasburg will also pitch for the Phoenix Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League, which begins Oct. 13.

While Strasburg is with the Nationals, team officials are trying to minimize the attention on him, shielding him from interviews. Strasburg, though, seemed happy to talk casually.

General Manager Mike Rizzo said that Strasburg will remain with the team for this six-game homestand, traveling with them to Miami for a three-game series against the Marlins that begins next Friday.

"Then he'll go to instructional league from Miami," Rizzo said.

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