Strasburg calls major league debut 'a total blast'

By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 10, 2010

Stephen Strasburg's debut generated calls from the Hall of Fame and "The Late Show With David Letterman," record ratings, endless highlights and, for him, one restful night. While family stayed up chatting all night in their hotel room, Strasburg and his wife, Rachel, said their goodbyes. "Just went home," he said. "I needed some sleep."

The day after Strasburg sent Washington into a frenzy Tuesday night by striking out 14 batters in his first start for the Washington Nationals, he tried to blend into his new team, something his immense talent and sparkling maiden outing made, for now, impossible. Among the madness whirling around him, Strasburg cherished his first, magical moments as a major leaguer.

"It was a total blast," he said. "It was something that I've been waiting for my entire life and going out in front of a big crowd, and everybody's behind me and behind this team, it was an amazing feeling. I'm going to remember it for the rest of my life."

The Nationals aligned Strasburg's schedule for the near future and planned a general outline for his season. Manager Jim Riggleman confirmed Strasburg will start every five days -- regardless of how many games are played in that span -- until shortly before the all-star break.

Unless weather or injury alters the Nationals' plan, Strasburg's next five starts will come Sunday in Cleveland, June 18 at home against the White Sox, June 23 at home against the Royals, June 28 at Atlanta and July 3 at home against the Mets. A spokesperson announced Wednesday that the Indians sold 3,000 additional tickets for Strasburg's start on Sunday at Progressive Field.

While the Nationals will rely on Strasburg for now, they will rest him often after the all-star break.

"There will be a point where we just shut him down for a while or really minimize his innings," Riggleman said. "We want him to pitch in September, so some of that shutdown may be before September."

If the Nationals remain in contention deep into the year, shutting down Strasburg will present a welcome quandary. So far this year, he has pitched 55 1/3 innings in the minor leagues and seven in the majors. The Nationals will shut him down for the season once he reaches 160 innings, minors and majors combined, even if it means sitting their best pitcher in a playoff race.

"That would be very hard," Riggleman said. "I hope we have to make that decision. That would be tough, but we want to make sure this young man is pitching for years to come."

The aftermath from Tuesday night reverberated. The game earned a 7.1 local television rating, nearly quadrupling MASN's highest rating for a Nationals game.

On Wednesday, CBS announced that Strasburg would read the Top Ten List on Thursday's episode of "The Late Show With David Letterman." Late Tuesday night, the Hall of Fame called the Nationals' media relations staff, requesting an artifact from Strasburg's start -- perhaps his spikes or his cap -- to display in their "Today's Game" exhibit. The Nationals have not yet decided what item they'll donate, but there is a "strong possibility" they'll send something, a team spokesman said.

On Wednesday, Strasburg played catch in the rain in the Nationals Park outfield with starter Luis Atilano. Afterward, Strasburg warily met with the media. He smiled when Liván Hernández snuck into the media pack and grabbed a television reporter's microphone. Hernández asked Strasburg how his family felt watching him.

"They were pretty excited for me," Strasburg said. "My dad, it was probably the first time I saw him break into tears a little bit."

Strasburg, in one night, had changed so much about his franchise. The day after his debut, one thing remained the same: Everyone who was there felt lucky.

"Hell, yeah," Hernández said. "You got to be a part of history."

© 2010 The Washington Post Company