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Nats: Strasburg talks OK

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Washington Nationals have until Aug. 17 to sign top draft pick Stephen Strasburg, and they've known all along negotiations with the right-hander and his agent, Scott Boras, almost certainly will go down to the wire. Which explains why there has been little movement in the six weeks since the Nationals took the San Diego State ace with the No. 1 overall selection.

Don't mistake the silence, though, as a sign of strained relationships between the two sides. In fact, Washington's front office remains as confident in its ability to sign Strasburg as it was on draft day.

This despite an ESPN report Tuesday evening that cited a "source close to the negotiations" saying the Nationals "are not on pace" to sign Strasburg by the deadline.

"I can tell you that's not consistent with the actual talks we've had with [Strasburg and Boras]," a club official said in response to the report.

Team president Stan Kasten and acting general manager Mike Rizzo have remained silent on the Strasburg talks the last six weeks and insist they won't negotiate through the media. Boras did not return a message left for him Tuesday evening.

Boras has referred to Strasburg, who went 13-1 with a 1.32 ERA this season and won the Golden Spikes Award as the top amateur player in the country, as an "extraordinary" draft pick and is seeking a contract that far exceeds the previous record of $10.5 million the Chicago Cubs gave to right-hander Mark Prior in 2001.

Olsen's domino effect

Scott Olsen's season-ending shoulder injury throws a wrench not only into the left-hander's future but also the Nationals' rotation plans for the next 2 1/2 months.

Olsen, who will have surgery Thursday to repair a partially torn labrum in his left shoulder, and teammate John Lannan are the only Washington starters who have thrown more than 180 innings in a single season. Those two were being counted on to duplicate those efforts this year and pitch straight into October while the Nationals shut down their rookie starters.

But with Olsen now done for the year, Washington faces a potential dilemma as the rest of the season plays out. Rookies Jordan Zimmermann and Craig Stammen and Class AAA Syracuse starters Shairon Martis, Ross Detwiler and Collin Balester won't be allowed to surpass their previous career highs by more than 30 or so innings.

"Somebody's going to have to pitch those innings later," interim manager Jim Riggleman said. "We're going to have to be a little creative to figure out how those September innings are going to be put out there."

Rizzo said the organization is closely monitoring its minor league starters and may hold some of them back now to preserve some innings for later. He did say it's unlikely the Nationals would use a six-man rotation.

One of the rookies being watched is J.D. Martin, who was roughed up a bit in his big league debut Monday but will remain in Washington's rotation for now.

"I thought he settled down, made some real good pitches and kept us in there after a couple of things in the first couple innings," Riggleman said of Martin, who allowed five runs in his first two innings before tossing two scoreless. "He knows what kind of pitcher he is. He knows he's not Zimmermann. He knows he's more of a guy that's going to hit his spots. And I think he'll do that."