- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Stephen Strasburg hasn’t been a rich ballplayer for long, but he’s already figured out a few things.

In an interview Tuesday on “The Sports Fix,” co-hosted by Kevin Sheehan and me, Strasburg was asked whether he bought anything with the millions he got for signing with the Washington Nationals.

“Not really,” he said. “The thing in this business is that the more money you make, it seems like you get more stuff for free. So I haven’t really bought anything yet.”

Spoken like a true rock star: money for nothing and chicks for free.

He also has down pat the No. 1 obsession of ballplayers away from the field - golf.

“I like to do it to get away,” he said. “I have about a 10 handicap. I don’t play much on a regular basis. It is good to go out there with some friends and do some four-man scramble. Watching Tiger Woods, he makes it look so easy. It humbles me whenever I get out there.”

For what it’s worth, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz bonded on the golf course as much as they did in the clubhouse.

Not that I’m saying the kid is Maddux, Glavine or Smoltz.

If he is just Stephen Strasburg - all that Stephen Strasburg is projected to be, at least - he will carve out his own place in pitching lore and legend.

And he is Stephen Strasburg, by the way - the full moniker. No one, he says, calls him Steve.

Steve Strasburg never would have been the No. 1 pick in baseball this year, the most highly touted pitching prospect in 20 years. Steve Strasburg wouldn’t throw 100 mph.

A man with that much talent requires the full pronunciation of his name.

His nickname among former teammates is “Stras,” but that won’t do. He’s already too big a star to answer to such an ordinary nickname.

How about Stephen Iceberg for the way he freezes hitters? Or Stephen Strasosphere because his talent is in a different stratosphere?

Lame.

Let’s go modern Walter “Big Train” Johnson: “Big Metro.”

Big Metro will pull into Washington on Friday for the upcoming Nationals homestand - but you won’t see him on the mound, if that’s what you’re hoping for.

He will be in a Nationals uniform, though, wearing No. 37 and working out with the team. So you might get to see him play catch - like the media contingent that showed up at the team’s spring training complex in Viera, Fla., on Sunday for Strasburg’s first workout.

The presence of reporters caught the 21-year-old pitcher by surprise, and he reportedly wasn’t thrilled to face them.

I’m going to give the kid a pass on this one. He had traveled from the West Coast the day before, and despite the talent and the money, he still was just a kid showing up for the first day of work.

On “The Sports Fix,” Strasburg told Kevin and me that he wasn’t trying to be difficult.

“I was just joking around with them,” Strasburg said. “Obviously they take their job real seriously, and if they want to come out and watch me play a little catch for 10 minutes, that’s fine. Either way, I’m going to get my work in, no matter if there is media there or not.”

As for when he’ll pitch in a Nationals uniform, don’t make any plans yet. He will head back to Florida later this month for the Florida Instructional League and then on to the Arizona Fall League.

Does he expect to be at Nationals Park next April for Opening Day? Strasburg said he has no timetable for his first pitch with the Washington Nationals.

“I don’t think the organization wants to rush me,” he said. “They want to gradually transition into pro ball because it is a little different pitching every five days. I am comfortable doing whatever they want me to do. I know when they think the time is right, I’m going to get my shot.”

That’s the same caveat offered by former Orioles manager Davey Johnson, who managed Strasburg on the U.S. Olympic team last year and raves about him.

“Dwight Gooden, when he was 17 and I managed him in Kingsport, had the velocity, the stuff and the command to pitch at any level,” Johnson told me earlier this summer. “The only reason to hold him down in the minor leagues is not worry about him succeeding but to build up the endurance in his arm through the course of a season. That was the only concern.”

The Orioles’ top pitching prospect, Brian Matusz, the first pitcher selected in the 2008 draft and the fourth overall pick, made his major league debut last month. Strasburg could follow the same path.

“I don’t really know how much time I will have in D.C. next year,” he said. “I will be living out of a suitcase for the most part next year, and hopefully I will show them enough that I could be there for the full season the year after that.”

“I know I have a lot to learn. I am just going to take it one day at a time and learn as much as I can. It’s not about how fast you get up there. It is about how long you are up there for. … I want to come up there ready and help the Nationals win some ball games when the time comes.”

And there will be people lining up to give money for nothing and chicks for free.

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