Pirates Notebook: Players shrug off Strasburg

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If this is the day Major League Baseball has been anticipating all summer, the debut of Washington phenom Stephen Strasburg, then it also is the day the Pirates have been anticipating ... well, not much at all, actually.

The general, overwhelming sentiment in the home clubhouse Monday when Strasburg's name was raised was a shrug, perhaps best represented by always-blunt outfielder Delwyn Young.

"I really couldn't care less, to be honest with you," Young said. "I got nothing to say, really. It's just another pitcher."

What of the media circus?

And of the Pirates making a rare appearance on national TV, with MLB Network on hand?

"Hey, Mark Prior," Young replied to those questions, citing the most recent pitching phenom whose career was cut short by arm injury. "There have been other guys who zipped right through the minors, and we don't even know their names now. So, he's just the newest commodity. For me, he's just another pitcher. I never faced this guy."

Part of the broader baseball mindset is that no player has proven himself until he has done so in the majors, and that -- not any palpable disrespect -- seemed to be the thrust of most of the Pirates' remarks.

"He still hasn't thrown a pitch in the bigs," center fielder Andrew McCutchen said.

"We expect it to be electric," left fielder Lastings Milledge said of the atmosphere. "Are we expecting it to be different than anything else? No. We face good pitchers all across the league. We know he's going to bring it, but he's got nine tough guys to get out."

In 11 minor-league starts, Strasburg went 7-2 with a 1.30 ERA, 65 strikeouts and 13 walks. But the merit in McCutchen's point can be found in isolating on Strasburg's performance against the Pirates' Class AA relatively light-hitting Altoona team: He threw in his standard 97-mph range and, in his professional debut, beat the Curve despite allowing four runs -- one earned, in five innings. In a later meeting, the Curve chased Strasburg after just 4 2/3 innings after he allowed four runs on six hits and three walks.

John Russell and the Pirates' staff have received information from Altoona manager Matt Walbeck and his staff as part of their preparation.

"We'll be ready, but it's still different for the hitters when it's someone they haven't faced," Russell said. "It should be a good challenge, but I like the fact that our guys have done pretty well against Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum this year."

Another item: Strasburg never pitched more than 6 1/3 innings in any of those starts, so a deep performance tonight is unlikely.

First baseman Garrett Jones spoke with admiration of Strasburg.

"With all the hype that's been put around him in his whole career, I feel like he's been handling it pretty well," Jones said. "He seems like a professional at a young age He has the stuff to pitch in the big leagues, and it looks like he's mentally ready, too. Everyone has a different road. There are some guys who just figure it out early. Some guys just have so much talent that you can't hold them back."

Jones said he was looking forward to the atmosphere.

"Everyone's going to be watching the game, and this is a good opportunity for us to showcase what a good team we are," Jones said. "We're looking to take it to him and do some damage against him."

The Pirates, to a man, did not see the Nationals' scheduling of Strasburg against them as a slap. Rather, they pointed out that, once the date to avoid paying extra in salary arbitration down the road had passed for all teams -- that was last week -- Strasburg was either going to face the Cincinnati Reds this past weekend or the Pirates now. And Strasburg's minor-league schedule lined up with tonight.

"It's got nothing to do with us," Milledge said.

Meeting with Capps

Tonight also will mark the Pirates' first meeting with Matt Capps since releasing him in December for financial reasons.

As the Nationals' closer, he leads the majors with 18 saves and has a 3.62 ERA, but he has hit his roughest spell of the season in allowing 15 runs his past 10 appearances, including four blown saves in his past eight opportunities.

"It's been a little frustrating, the last 10 days," Capps said Monday by phone from Washington. "I easily could be 21 for 22 in saves right now."

Capps spoke effusively of Strasburg.

"Oh, my God, I saw him in spring training and ... you know, I saw Roger Clemens and Nolan Ryan when they were near the end of their careers, but this kid looks like those guys in their prime. Every pitch is 97-99, painting the corners, down at the knees. He's special."

Buried treasure

• Outfielder Ryan Church was back with the team after a stomach illness wiped him out for the weekend. He was available for pinch-hitting but not more.

Jeff Karstens' start tonight might be his last. With Brad Lincoln expected to make his debut Wednesday, that makes six in the rotation, and none of Zach Duke, Paul Maholm, Ross Ohlendorf or Dana Eveland is expected to come out.

• First baseman Jeff Clement, on the bench again with a .189 average, could be optioned to Class AAA Indianapolis when another first baseman, Steve Pearce, comes off the disabled list early next week.

Dejan Kovacevic: dkovacevic@post-gazette.com . Find more at PBC Blog .


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