VIERA, Fla. - Stephen Strasburg has never been to Wrigley Field.
Heck, he’s never been to Chicago.
But the 23-year-old hurler learned this morning that he’ll be standing on the mound at Wrigley on April 5, serving as the Nats’ opening day starter when the Nationals take on the Cubs.
“It’s a tremendous honor,” Strasburg said in the Nats’ dugout a few minutes ago. “But there’s still a lot of work to be done, and it’s just one game. Hopefully the games will be mattering a lot more at the end of the year for us.”
Strasburg has made just 17 career major league starts, and he’s still just 18 months removed from having Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow. But he’ll be the guy the Nats send out there to kick off the 2012 season, a season which is setting up to be one of the most promising in the Nationals’ short history.
“I think anybody wants to have the opportunity to pitch opening day and to be able to say that I have that under my belt, it’s awesome,” Strasburg said. “It’s a great feeling and I’m looking forward to it.”
Then there’s that whole part about pitching at Wrigley.
“I’ve never been there, never seen it in real life, and just to think that I’m going to be pitching there, it’s awesome,” he said.
Pitching coach Steve McCatty delivered the news to Strasburg this morning as the two were going over Strasburg’s start last night against the Mets.
Like manager Davey Johnson, McCatty said that despite the presence of some quality, more experienced arms in the Nats’ rotation, (including Gio Gonzalez) there was no doubt in his mind that Strasburg was the right guy to get the ball opening day.
“I still have this lasting impression of seeing him in that game in Miami (in his last start of 2011) when he struck out 10. The guy’s a No. 1 starter,” McCatty said. “Gio’s done great, all the guys have been doing great, but Stephen is who he is. I’m not knocking anybody else, but here’s a guy who’s pretty special. And you send your No. 1 guy out there. In my opinion, he’s it.”
“There’s some guys who have some more time than Stephen, but when you look at what he brings out there, he’s the prototype No. 1 starter. When you try to win, who you perceive to be your No. 1 starter, that’s the guy you’re going to send out there to start the season. That’s the way I view it.”