My take on the Strasburg debut

There are plenty of guesses at the date of Stephen Strasburg’s MLB debut all over the web: Byron Kerr suggested June 4 earlier this month, and the Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore also offered that prediction here. And Brian Oliver at Nats Farm Authority has an excellent synopsis of the possibilities.

I won’t attempt to tread the same ground again, but I will throw out one detail: Based on what I’ve heard from people in the Nationals organization, I believe Drew Storen will be here before Strasburg.

The Nationals promoted Storen to Triple-A Syracuse for the same reason I think they’ll promote him to the majors first: He signed first. He inked his deal with the Nationals a day after he was drafted last year, and was in the minors throughout the summer while Strasburg waited until the Aug. 17 deadline to sign his deal. From what I’ve heard, there absolutely was an idea to move Storen to Syracuse a couple days ahead of Strasburg as a kind of reward for signing first; it sends a message to Storen that the organization believes he did the right thing, and it also drops a hint to any future draft picks they may be dealing with (like Bryce Harper). And while Storen has been completely gracious while media flock to Strasburg, he’s competitive too. He’s no slouch - he’s been almost as dominant in the minors as Strasburg has - and if the Nationals’ bullpen continues to show holes in the seventh inning, he could be up a couple days before Strasburg.

I bring all that up because it’s something to consider when performing the Strasburg arrival calculus. The Nationals announced this morning Strasburg will make his next start on May 18 at Rochester. If they kept him on normal rest, he could make four more starts at Syracuse and debut June 8 - a day after the Nationals make the No. 1 pick - and pitch twice on the following homestand. Storen, then, could debut June 4 or June 5 and have a couple days to himself before Strasburg arrives. The extra Syracuse start seems unnecessary, but it’d give the Nationals one more chance to pick any more nits they see.

If they gave Strasburg extra rest before the rest of his minor-league starts, he debuts June 4 and pitches again at home on June 10. That would give the Nationals two home gates for Strasburg’s debut week, though it would mean Strasburg pitches once, not twice, on the next homestand. Would the Nationals bring Storen up for the West Coast road trip at the end of the month? It’s possible, but pushing him too early could mess with the Super Two date. So in that scenario, there’s a chance Storen doesn’t beat Strasburg to the majors. And that’s not the end-all, be-all. But I do think it’s enough of a consideration for the Nationals that it’s worth discussing here.

It’s possible the Nationals’ bullpen is good enough that they don’t move Storen before Strasburg, though the relievers before Tyler Clippard and Matt Capps have been plenty inconsistent. If both of them move around the same time, though, I think Storen will win the race to the majors by a nose. So now that the Nationals have given him an extra day of rest, put me down for Strasburg on June 8, at least until something else comes out to make me change my mind.