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Strasburg preparing to make his fall debut

- The Washington Times - Friday, October 16, 2009

PHOENIX | As an experiment, Baltimore prospect Brandon Snyder wore a Stephen Strasburg jersey when he left the clubhouse after an Arizona Fall League game Wednesday night.

Snyder still wore the rest of his Orioles gear - not that it mattered. He could not get to the team bus before being mobbed.

"I thought it was funny until I had about 50 people surrounding me," he said with a laugh. "Then I didn't know if it was such a good idea. I got a little nervous after that."

Strasburg will take the next step in what could be a short transition to the major leagues Friday night when the Washington Nationals' No. 1 pick makes his debut with the Scottsdale Scorpions.

Strasburg, whose fastball hit triple digits at San Diego State, will be on a short leash as he works to regain arm strength after a summer of limited activity while agent Scott Boras and Washington general manager Mike Rizzo negotiated his record $15.1 million deal. He likely will pitch only three or four innings after totaling five in two instructional league starts in Florida.

Strasburg said he spent the summer doing touristy things in San Diego - going deep-sea fishing, playing golf - and hanging out with his family. Now it's time to get back to work; Strasburg said he is looking forward to pitching in a game with something on the line.

"It's been a long time since I've been able to do that," he said. "To be out here and be playing against some pretty good competition, I'm excited about that and to see what I can do."

More than 400 former Arizona Fall League players were in the majors in 2009, so the Nationals may be able to get a good read on Strasburg's preparedness for a spot in the starting rotation after he dominated for San Diego State.

"I'm not going to change," Strasburg said. "A lot of college coaches say [a pitcher should] live on the outer half of the plate because if you get it on the inner half, you are going to get beat with an aluminum bat. I was able to be successful on the inner half in college, so my whole goal is to carry over what I was focusing on at school and trying to do it here at this level. That's where you make your money - on the inside corner. When hitters get comfortable, then you get in trouble."

Strasburg did not want to speculate on what 2010 will bring.

"I'm not going to put any expectations on myself," he said. "The pro game is a little bit different than college. You are pitching every five days instead of once a week, so a big thing I'm going to focus on is getting my body in shape for a long season.

"I want to throw as many innings and as many pitches as I can on the professional stage to prepare for spring training. It's the same game. You just have to go out and believe in your abilities and not try to be somebody that you are not."