Washington Nationals fans and the media have been speculating that 2009 #1 pick Stephen Strasburg will make his major league debut on Friday, June 4 against the Cincinnati Reds. Tickets for that date have been selling well, even before the team made any sort of official announcement on when Strasburg will pitch his first game for the Nats.
But today, according to Mark Zuckerman on CSNWashington.com, the team “identified a window of possible dates during the Nationals’ next homestand (June 4-6 against the Cincinnati Reds and June 8-10 against the Pittsburgh Pirates)” when Strasburg could possibly make his debut.
There will be a lot of disappointed ticket holders if Strasburg doesn’t pitch on June 4, but starting him June 8 seems to make better baseball sense. As Zuckerman states, “In order for Strasburg to make the June 4 start against the Reds, he would need to take one extra day of rest following Saturday’s Class AAA outing. If he remains on normal rest, he would start again for Syracuse June 3 at Buffalo. He could then debut against the Pirates June 8 at Nationals Park on normal rest. He could also be bumped back a day or two and pitch later in that series.”
To me, it just seems that you’d want to have Strasburg pitching on a normal four days rest, no more and no less, when he makes his MLB debut. There could be enough on his mind as he takes the mound in a Nats uniform for the first time and I see no reason to risk throwing him off with an extra day of rest, just so he can start the June 4 game that so many fans have purchased tickets to.
As Zuckerman’s article says “there is little financial reason for the Nationals to keep him in the minors any longer [after his start this Saturday], because he most likely will have passed the date that ensures he can’t become eligible for salary arbitration until 2014.” But I see no harm in giving him one more AAA start so that he makes his MLB debut on 4 days rest. He could get hurt in that final AAA start but that could happen anytime and it seems more likely something might go wrong when you throw off a pitcher’s routine.
The better PR move at this point may be a June 4 start, but the team never made any announcement pointing to that date as Strasburg’s definite debut. And, over the long haul, positioning Strasburg for success as he begins his major league career makes more sense—from both a baseball and, likely, a PR perspective as well—than pleasing those who bought June 4 tickets on speculation.
Keep in mind, I have zero experience working in baseball operations, though I’d like to think my having led several dynasties—including the Nats—to multiple World Series wins in EA Sports baseball in the past has to count for something. They’re pretty much the same thing, right?