Afternoon updates on a pitcher and a catcher

Funny how this job works sometimes.

I was out to lunch with a few media types today (the AP’s Howard Fendrich, WTOP’s Craig Heist, the Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore and Nats Insider’s Mark Zuckerman), and in walks Nationals GM Mike Rizzo (Right fielder Willie Harris was also in the house - and that was after he informed us that Carrabba’s, our first destination, was closed for lunch.)

Anyway, We’re respectful reporters, so we left Rizzo alone for the majority of the time. But, we’re still reporters. so we had to bug him for a couple things. Here they are:

First, Stephen Strasburg will make his minor league debut on April 11 at Altoona. As Jim Riggleman told reporters this morning, Strasburg will not pitch in the exhibition game on Saturday against the Red Sox; the Nationals thought about it, but decided in the end there was nothing to be gained other than a little attention.

The Nationals aren’t in the Strasburg game for that; first and foremost, they’re in it to develop the 21-year-old into the ace of a contending team. So he’ll start the year at Double-A Harrisburg, and make his first appearance two weeks from yesterday.

And oh, by the way, the start lines up on the same day as the Nationals’ fifth starter - meaning Strasburg could slide right into that spot when he reaches the majors. This is all very preliminary, and a pitching schedule can get bumped off-line by a rainout or a day off, but I’d keep my eye on June 5 against the Reds or June 10 against the Pirates for a Strasburg debut.

Second, the Nationals claimed catcher Chris Coste off waivers from the Mets. He will start the year at Triple-A Syracuse. The Nationals had tried to sign Coste last winter, but the Mets made a quick move for him. Rizzo said the 37-year-old (who wrote a book on his unlikely rise to the majors) still has an option left, which is why the Nationals wouldn’t have to put him back on waivers to send him to Syracuse.

It’s also why the Mets’ decision to let him go was a little odd, but they had a surplus of catchers and decided they didn’t need him. Coste’s best year came in 2008, when he hit .263 with nine homers in 98 games with the Phillies, driving in 36 runs and posting a .748 OPS.

I have no plans to stalk Rizzo to dinner, so that’s probably it for news for the day. I’ll have a feature on minor leaguer Danny Espinosa and some adjustments he’s making to his swing in just a little while though.