From the way he sounded Wednesday, Stephen Strasburg is content to ride out much of his summer before signing a deal with the Washington Nationals.
The San Diego State pitcher, taken by the Nationals with the No. 1 pick in Tuesday’s MLB draft, conducted a conference call along with his adviser, Scott Boras, on Wednesday morning and indicated he’s expecting to work out and bide his time through the negotiation process.
The Nationals must reach a deal with Strasburg by Aug. 17 under MLB rules.
“Obviously, I’m going to get back in and start working out. Actually, I may take a week off and then get after it again, try to take my game to the next level,” Strasburg said. “Obviously I’m going to get a little vacation as well. There’s a few places I’d like to go. And then relax this summer and have fun.”
Sentiments that any college kid would have before taking his first job in the real world, sure, but Boras later followed it with a few harbingers that he’s expecting something special for Strasburg.
The agent spoke highly of acting general manager Mike Rizzo and the Lerner family, calling the ownership group “an American success story.” He said he provided the Nationals before the draft with “every bit of information that we could about where Stephen’s value points were and why” and expects to start negotiations with Rizzo sometime after the draft concludes Thursday.
He would not disclose what salary range he is seeking for Strasburg, but on several occasions he put the right-hander in a group with international players like Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Japanese pitcher who got a Boras-brokered $52 million deal from the Boston Red Sox in December 2006.
“Those that have a dominant fastball, they dominate [in Japan],” Boras said. “Having that pitch and the ability to throw it up in the strike zone, they can’t handle that pitch in Japan. It’s why Dice-K dominated over there, [Hideo] Nomo, [Tomo] Ohka, those types of players, had that success in Japan. The key here in the United States is you have to be durable and throw that hard. There’s a success point that far exceeds Japan, Cuba or any environment like that.”
Boras put Strasburg in a group of “extraordinary” draft picks that he said bear little risk of busting and not reaching the major leagues, such as Josh Beckett, Justin Upton, Matt Wieters, Stephen Drew, Joe Mauer, J.D. Drew and Mark Teixeira.
Boras did not elaborate on rumors that he would take Strasburg to Japan if the San Diego native doesn’t sign with the Nationals, other than to say, “Ninety-nine percent of the time, you’re going to reach an agreement with the major league affiliate and sign the athlete. If that does not happen, then we would look to all the available resources one would have to evaluate what the next step is, [whether it’s] another draft [or] alternative places for the player to perform.”
But Boras struck an optimistic tone that a deal would get done, and though Strasburg said he wasn’t following the Nationals and hadn’t met any team executives in person, he called being picked first “an amazing feeling.”
“You’re so happy, and at the same time you’re kind of sad that the three years that I’ve had that were absolutely amazing have probably come to an end,” Strasburg said. “It just goes to show how hard I’ve worked. I’m so thankful for the coaches and players that have helped me along the way.”
In his portion of the conference call Strasburg was almost defiant at times, saying he had little to learn from other top picks because he wasn’t planning to be a first pick who was not successful in the big leagues.
When asked what he needed to learn to excel in the majors, Strasburg said, “The big thing is to get there, to get that experience,” and added he wasn’t worried about other players showing hostility to him because of a long holdout.
“I’m perfectly fine with it. There’s been people all year who have targeted me. [San Diego State] coach [Tony] Gwynn has always told me that it comes with the territory,” he said. “If you’re a .350 hitter in the big leagues, there’s always going to be guys who try to throw you down. But if you’re hitting .250 or .220, then who’s going to be writing about you? So who would you rather be?”
• Ben Goessling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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