Ted Youngling: Strasburg's return creates late-season buzz in D.C.

He's baaack! Stephen Strasburg will be making his 2011 debut Tuesday against the Los Angeles Dodgers. This will mark his first major league appearance since last Aug. 21.

I can't say I'm surprised by the announcement, but a part of me was convinced he would sit out the remainder of the season. All of a sudden, we find ourselves in a situation similar to June 8, 2010, with a week of anticipation that sees ticket sales jump and Nationals baseball dominate D.C. sports talk radio.

Whether you agree with the timing of his return or not, how can you not be excited? Until yesterday, there were several times during the season where I forgot he was even on the team. If Strasburg had been healthy we wouldn't be talking about guys like Tom Gorzelanny, Jason Marquis and Yunesky Maya trying to fill spots in the rotation.

For the most part, the Nationals' starting five have performed at the level I expected, if not better. With no true ace and Jordan Zimmermann still a year or two away from reaching his full potential, it would have been hard for Washington to stay competitive for too long.

Everyone will have different expectations for Strasburg in September. Some will base his performance off velocity, strikeout totals or maybe his win-loss record, but for me it's all about the pitch count and how deep he can go into games. Pitchers need to manage their own games, meaning that they need to show me they are in control, throwing smart pitches and getting guys out.

The whole decision is probably a PR stunt. Strasburg is healthy enough to be pitching in the minors, so why not earn a few extra dollars by having him pitch for the Nationals? It's what the fans want, and they deserve to see Strasburg pitch as many of them bought season tickets last year anticipating that Strasburg would be around for a majority of the season.

It's going to be awesome watching him do what he does best on the mound again. I mean, I was so impressed by him last year I thought he deserved a spot on the All-Star team. Naturally, I was just as excited and in over my head as everyone else, but it was hard not to be.

Mark your calendars, because Tuesday cannot come soon enough.

Ted Youngling blogs about the Nationals for The Nats Blog, and offers his viewpoints as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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