The Reading Phillies have seen enough of Stephen Strasburg. In two starts over the last week for Double-A Harrisburg, the Nationals phenom has thrown 10 innings against the R-Phils and allowed all of one hit, one walk and struck out 12. Last night was another night at the office for the 21-year-old righthander, throwing his fastball at a steady 97-100 mph over five no-hit innings at Reading and allowing just one baserunner, who reached on a third strike passed ball. He struck out six hitters in all.
"They've got some really good hitters in this league and he's faced some really good hitters," Harrisburg manager Randy Knorr said. "He just mixes well. He has confidence in all his pitches. For a guy who throws that hard, he does keep them off balance. I think that's big for what he does. He doesn't just rear back and throw it as hard as he can. He will throw breaking balls in fastball counts and throw them for strikes. He's done a good job with that."
Strasburg leads the Eastern League with a 0.52 ERA in 17 1/3 innings. Somehow it seems unlikely he'll be around long enough to claim the EL ERA title though.
Strasburg's march to the majors has been scrutinized unlike any prospect before him. After all, you don't see minor league games making the national networks unless there's a rehabbing big leaguer present—which there actually was last night, the Phillies' Brad Lidge who threw two scoreless innings, but even he was overshadowed by Strasburg. ("Strasburg must be pitching tonight," Lidge quipped to the Reading Eagle after seeing the hordes of media present.)
However, the Nationals are taking things one start at a time as far as deciding when Strasburg makes his inevitable move up to Triple-A Syracuse.
"Every time he pitches, we get a plan from the people in the front office—our pitching coordinator Spin (Williams), (director of player development) Doug Harris and (general manager Mike) Rizzo," Knorr said. "They all have a plan for him. Usually, today we'll get that plan for what he's going to do next. I think they keep it that way because they want to see how his progression goes. As long as he doesn't have any hurdles or roadblocks, I think he'll be moving pretty soon."
Jansen Finding His Place On Power-Armed 66ers Staff
Go out to an Inland Empire 66ers game and chances are you'll see at least one pretty good pitching prospect more nights than not. The staff for the Dodgers' high Class A affiliate includes their last two top draft picks—righty Ethan Martin (2008) and lefty Aaron Miller (2009), but there's another pitcher among the group that's garnering some buzz of his own, righthander Kenley Jansen.
Jansen's path to the 66ers' mound has been far different than high-profile draftees like Martin and Miller. Jansen, 22, gained some notice last year for his role with the Dutch team that stunned the powerhouse Dominican Republic twice in the World Baseball Classic—as its starting catcher. Jansen was a fine defensive backstop with a cannon for an arm, but his bat limited his career potential behind the plate as he was just a .229/.311/.337 hitter in five minor league seasons.
The Dodgers decided to convert him to pitching last July, and Jansen was able to make 12 appearances for Inland Empire before the end of the season, posting a 4.63 ERA in 12 innings of relief work. He struck out 19 though, and showed off an electric fastball in the Arizona Fall League that sat in the mid-90s and could be ratcheted up as high as 98 mph. Jansen's downfall last year was control, which was understandable, as he walked 11 and gave up 14 hits in his 12 innings. That hasn't been the case in 2010.
"He's developing some command and a little feel," Inland Empire pitching coach Charlie Hough said. "Basically, he's starting to look like a pitcher instead of just a plain old hard thrower—and he throws pretty hard."
Jansen has made seven appearances out of the Inland Empire bullpen and given up just eight hits and three walks in 12 2/3 innings of work. The strikeouts are still piling up as well, as he's already whiffed 20 of the 47 hitters he's faced thanks to his hard fastball and developing slider.
"His slider's coming along," Hough said. "He got an out (Monday) night with a pretty good changeup. He is a hard thrower that needs to learn how to pitch throwing hard and then adapt the other stuff to it, not the other way around—not learn how to throw the stuff then use his fastball."
Jansen hasn't allowed a run yet this season and has struck out at least one hitter in each of his appearances. Working with Jansen has presented a different set of challenges for Hough than he has with most of the young pitchers coming through the 66ers clubhouse. But Hough also worked with Jansen last year with Inland Empire and has been able to develop a rapport with Jansen.
"I try not to get too technical with him," Hough said. "Basically, I let him throw. Because I was his first (pitching) coach, he kinda trusts me. So I kinda leave it at that."
So far, so good.
• Hough also offered some thoughts on the 66ers other mound prospects: Martin, Miller and righthander Nathan Eovaldi.
Martin has gotten off to the best start of the three. The 20-year-old's fastball has been topping out at 95-96 mph so far and he's been showing better command than he did last year—not that he was bad in going 6-8, 3.87 for low Class A Great Lakes in his first full season. Through three outings, the 20-year-old is 2-0, 1.80, having given up just three runs on 10 hits in 15 innings. He's also put up a 20-5 strikeout-walk ratio. All three of those runs against him came in a single inning against Modesto on April 15. He's been spotless otherwise.
"He's throwing really well," Hough said. "His command has been pretty good and it will get better.
"He has power stuff—power breaking ball, good changeup, good arm action. He's just got to get some innings in pro baseball."
• Miller primarily played in the outfield during his first two years at Baylor before becoming a two-way player his junior year and pitching his way into the supplemental first round thanks to a low-to-mid 90s fastball and power slider. The 22-year-old lefty pitched 36 innings and went 3-1, 2.75 in his pro debut last year in the Rookie-level Arizona League and low Class A Midwest League. He's gotten off to a slower start in the California League. Miller is still winless after four starts and has given up 17 hits and nine walks in 20 innings, producing a 4.05 ERA. However, he's registered 20 strikeouts, and most of that damage came in one outing against Stockton, when he was touched up for seven runs (five earned) in five innings.
"Sneaky fastball," Hough said. "Easy, easy delivery and the ball kinda sneaks up on the hitters. He has a ways to go throwing some breaking balls. He has good feel with the changeup. Again, he's another guy that hasn't pitched an awful lot. He probably got 30 innings last year coming out of college, where he didn't pitch all that much anyway. He was a regular player. So he's gotta spend some time on the mound and develop a better feel of all of his pitches and for the game. He's getting them pretty good though."
• Righthander Nathan Eovaldi made his second start for the 66ers last night, going five innings against Lake Elsinore and giving up a run on four hits. He's pitched 10 innings through his two outings and given up three runs on five hits, but he's also walked seven and struck out just five. Eovaldi gives the 66ers another power arm, as his fastball can sit at 93-96 mph, but he still has work to do developing his curveball and changeup.
"Overpowering stuff," Hough said. "Needs to harness it and throw strikes. Real hard, heavy fastball and I think he's going to throw harder than he does now, which is plenty hard."
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