Strasburg's debut could come against Bucs

Strasburg's debut could come against Bucs

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Nationals are tentatively planning to have right-hander Stephen Strasburg make his Major League debut against the Pirates at Nationals Park in June, according to a team source.

No specific date has been set yet for Strasburg's debut, but the Pirates play the Nationals on June 8-10. The Nats plan to make an official announcement five or six days before his first big league start.

"We had a little taste of Strasburg during Spring Training, but now the whole baseball world gets to see it on the stage. It would be exciting to be a part of it," said closer Matt Capps, who played for the Pirates the previous five seasons.

There still are any number of variables that could cause a change in the Nationals' plans, which is why the team has been cautious about committing to a date. In the fall, for example, Strasburg had two TV starts scratched in the Arizona Fall League because of minor neck and knee injuries.

Strasburg, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, has been dominant in the Minors thus far, going a combined 6-1 with a 0.99 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 45 1/3 innings for Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse.

General manager Mike Rizzo was not available for comment and manager Jim Riggleman declined to talk about Strasburg's debut.

However, Nationals players were ecstatic to hear the news about the possibility of Strasburg making his Major League debut against Pittsburgh.

Center fielder Nyjer Morgan, who nicknamed Strasburg "Jesus" after watching him pitch during Spring Training, said Strasburg will make an impact on the team.

"This kid is a monster. He is a special breed," Morgan said. "I'm fired up that he will face my former team. I just want to see him pitch really good against them. He is going to bring an energy that we haven't had before here. It's something I'm looking forward to."

Strasburg and reliever Drew Storen played together in Harrisburg and Syracuse. Storen said Strasburg worked hard and made the necessary adjustments to be successful in professional baseball.

"He elevated his game when he went from Harrisburg to Triple-A," Storen said. "I hope he does that when he gets to the Major Leagues."

Capps is expected to save a lot of Strasburg's games in the future. What impressed Capps was how humble Strasburg was during Spring Training.

"His arm is not a secret," Capps said. "The thing I was most impressed with was the way he carried himself. To be that age, to have that success level so far, he was very mature with it and very humble about it. He never seemed content with anything he did. He was in the weight room and in the bullpen busting his tail."

When third baseman Ryan Zimmerman learned that Strasburg could be coming to the big leagues in June and the team is trying to trade for Astros right-hander Roy Oswalt, it meant to Zimmerman that the Nationals are looking to get better in 2010 and beyond.

"It's exciting. Every year I've been here, we had been the team trading [away] people," Zimmerman said. "We have a long way to go still. We need to have a good month and get back to winning a few more games, but just to be in the talks for that kind of stuff is exciting. It's a different feel. We are the team that is trying to make moves instead of trying pawn guys off."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.