- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 19, 2009

If the Washington Nationals draft San Diego State right-hander Stephen Strasburg next month, indications are the presumptive No. 1 pick won’t spend much time in the District this season - even if he signs quickly.

The Nationals likely will keep Strasburg in the minors for most of whatever length of time they have him this year, a club source said Monday. Though there’s a possibility Strasburg could make a late-season appearance to draw some attention - like Ross Detwiler did in 2007 - Washington likely will wait until 2010 before inserting him into the starting rotation.

The chief reason is that Strasburg, by the time he signs with the Nationals, will have thrown 100-plus innings and then have had at least several weeks off from pitching. It’s possible team executives could call for Strasburg’s major league debut late this year; a handshake agreement also could be put in place for Strasburg to make an appearance in 2009, as was the case between former general manager Jim Bowden and Detwiler in 2007.

But such an appearance likely would be an isolated case. Acting GM Mike Rizzo is believed to prefer keeping Strasburg in the minors and putting his arm through a light workload the rest of this year.

Wagner retires

Right-hander Ryan Wagner, whom the Nationals hoped would be a key member of their bullpen after they acquired him in 2006, unexpectedly retired.

The 26-year-old had a 6.11 ERA and two saves in 13 appearances with Class AAA Syracuse this season. Though his numbers weren’t fantastic, Washington officials believed he could be a candidate for promotion at some point and were stunned by his decision to retire.

Wagner, acquired from the Cincinnati Reds with Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez in one of the blockbuster deals of Bowden’s tenure, missed much of 2007 and 2008 after undergoing shoulder surgery. His career ends with an 11-9 record and a 4.79 ERA in 148 major league games.

“It was shocking,” manager Manny Acta said. “Only he knows what he’s doing, but you put in all that hard work to come back from the surgery - and then the very next year you retire. It’s kind of shocking.”

Short on outfielders

All three of the Nationals’ healthy outfielders were in the lineup Monday night, with Elijah Dukes and Austin Kearns on the bench nursing injuries.

Dukes aggravated his strained left hamstring running the bases Sunday, and though he’s officially day-to-day, there is some concern given his history of leg injuries.

“It’s something that we need to monitor,” Acta said. “We don’t want to put him out there if he’s not 100 percent and he won’t be able to run the way he’s capable of and be tentative and make it worse.”

Kearns was out of the lineup Monday for the fourth straight game with a bruised left hand after he was hit by a pitch Friday night. Kearns did take some swings in the batting cage Monday and was available if needed.

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