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Nats try to keep Strasburg at ease

Nats try to keep Strasburg at ease

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WASHINGTON -- Right-hander Stephen Strasburg arrived at Nationals Park on Tuesday afternoon, a few hours before his Major League debut against the Pirates. One of the first things he did was talk to manager Jim Riggleman, who did most of the talking.

Riggleman told Strasburg that he earned the right to be in the Major Leagues and the team was glad to have him. The manager did ask Strasburg a question, though. How far is the mound from home plate?

Strasburg, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, gave the correct answer -- 60 feet, six inches.

"I said, 'You have a good chance because that's what it is [at Nationals Park], too,'" Riggleman said. "I just let him know that it's not going to be much different. 'Just throw to hitters, throw to Pudge [Rodriguez] and see what happens.'"

Rodriguez was activated from the 15-day disabled list before Tuesday's game. He talked about how he wanted to be behind the plate and give Strasburg advice.

Stephen Strasburg

"The most important thing is that we have another game," Rodriguez said. "It's going to be special for the kid, and there is going to be a lot of excitement. For my job, I just want to sit down and talk to him for a little while -- go through the scouting reports, see some video and be ready for the game.

"The main thing for me is to make him stay focused and do what he needs to do -- keep doing what he did in the Minor Leagues. The same stuff that he did in the Minor Leagues, you have to do here. If he does that, he is going to be fine."

What Strasburg did in the Minor Leagues was impressive, going a combined 7-2 with a 1.30 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings for Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse.

Outfielder Mike Morse believes Strasburg's presence means that people around baseball will take the Nationals seriously.

"The nation is seeing what is going on with the Nationals," Morse said. "If a lot of people didn't believe that we are turning things around, they are going to start believing now. I think Strasburg is going to do great. If he doesn't do exceptionally well, I know he will still do well. He is going to have a great time. He is going to relax. He is going to fit in right where he belongs."

Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner saw Strasburg in the clubhouse before the game and wished him luck. Lerner said he can't imagine the pressure Strasburg is going through, and he is impressed by how Strasburg has handled the immense hype.

"The way he has conducted himself has been terrific," Lerner said. "It's a great day for Washington Nationals fans. I think everybody knows we are into bigger and better things. Stephen is a major part of it. We are heading in the right direction."

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