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Strasburg rocked, Espinosa hurt

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Stephen Strasburg’s second Arizona Fall League outing today wasn’t exactly a fine work of art. The Nationals’ top pitching prospect was rocked during a 2 2/3-inning start that probably rivals any beating he’s ever taken in his life.

The gory details: 2.2 ip, 7 h, 8 r, 7 er, 1 bb, 4 k, 3 hr, 60 pitches, 36 strikes.

Strasburg, pitching for the Phoenix Desert Dogs against the Peoria Javelinas, allowed back-to-back solo homers in the first: one on a 96-mph fastball, one on an 83-mph breaking ball. Two innings later, he was tagged for a grand slam on an 81-mph breaking ball.

What does any of this mean? Not much, really, except to point out the obvious: this guy is human, and good hitters can hit him. I wasn’t there to watch Strasburg in person, but based on the Gametracker account (which today included graphic representation of every pitch) it would appear most of the big hits came on pitches up in the zone. This is something every minor league pitcher comes to realize at some point: It doesn’t matter how hard you throw, good professional hitters can make solid contact if the ball’s up in the zone.

Strasburg consistently was hitting anywhere from 96 to 99 mph with his fastball, so that’s not an issue. But you can get by with a 99-mph fastball at the letters at San Diego State, or even in the instructional league. You can’t get by with that in a top prospect league like the AFL, and you certainly get by with that in the major leagues. Just something he’ll learn (if he hasn’t already).

It hasn’t exactly been a good day for the Desert Dogs, who as we speak are trailing the Javelinas 9-5 in the seventh inning. Worse, Nats shortstop prospect Danny Espinosa left the game in the first inning after sliding hard into second base to break up a double play. Both Espinosa and the second baseman (Scott Sizemore) had to leave hte game with injuries.

My sources out in Arizona say they’ll update me with news on both guys after the game, so I’ll be sure to pass that on to everyone once I’ve got it.

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Mark Zuckerman

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