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Nats' Rodriguez terms Strasburg 'amazing'

The Washington Nationals continue spring training at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Fla.

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The Nats try to be skeptical so they won't sound nuts. "In the end, the hitters will tell you about him," said McCatty. "But I have no doubt what's going to happen. As far as his raw stuff, it's all true. I've never seen anything like it. He's as billed. Maybe more."

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Nothing in baseball is new. The Orioles had a No. 1-overall draft pick in camp 20 years ago. Ben McDonald, 6-foot-7, threw 32 strikes in 35 pitches in his first game and a shutout in his first big league start. Before injuries and lost confidence, before the league figured out that he only had two pitches -- a precise fastball that touched 97 and a huge overhand curveball -- he looked super. As a rookie in '90, he was 8-5 with a 2.43 ERA in 118 innings.

That spring, we all watched McDonald almost at arm's length, just like Strasburg now. It's not close. Strasburg looks better. He's faster, has more quality pitches, is quicker to the plate and, since he was never a star until his second year in college, Strasburg never developed an entitled attitude.

Now come the questions that can only be answered by time. Is Strasburg durable? No one knows how pitching every fifth day, for months, will impact any 21-year-old's arm. How will he react to failures, since he'll have them? Do 30,000 people focus him or distract him? Is there any negative X factor -- like a temper that flashed a bit in college -- that's not known?

Now, he looks so good that everybody is trying to claim him. Exec Bob Boone now says, "Yeah, I was beating the bushes and I saw him throwing rocks at birds."

And hitting them with all five pitches?

Patience, patience.

"It's all about the innings now. Only way to learn," said Johnson. "The main outcome is not today. You don't win the world in one day."

But, sometimes, on a bad team that desperately wants to be better, you can stop the world, if only for 10 minutes, and give a glimpse of the future. Or so it seems.


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