To the naked eye - one that hasn't watched hundreds, if not thousands of prospects with the innate ability to resist the hype that might envelop lesser men - it might seem as though Stephen Strasburg declared himself ready for bigger things on Wednesday.
Not to Mike Rizzo.
The Nationals' general manager watched Strasburg allow one hit in five shutout innings while striking out six for Double-A Harrisburg on Wednesday. He saw the same game fans and reporters did, but came away with the same opinion of Strasburg he had before. The 21-year-old is pitching brilliantly, but he's still doing some things he wouldn't get away with in the majors. And until those get cleaned up, he's not coming up.
"We're going to take it start by start and see where it leads us. I've got a tentative plan in my mind that I'm not going to share with you guys," Rizzo said. "But we see that he certainly needs more work down in the minor leagues. We're going to see him in the big leagues, and when we see him in the big leagues, we hope he's here for good."
Rizzo said Strasburg, even while only allowing a hit and a walk, is getting enough work out of the stretch to fix the problems he had this spring there. Strasburg had been getting to his back side too quickly, not taking enough time to load up, and was losing velocity because of it. But he's slowed his delivery down by one or two-tenths of a second, and while he's still quick enough to prevent steals, his fastball isn't slowing down any more.
Still, the Nationals want to see more: Strasburg was still elevating some fastballs, Rizzo said. He still needs to get better at fielding his position and pitching every fifth day. He will increase his workload, so he's able to get through seven innings when he comes to the majors. Rizzo said he has decided whether Strasburg would go to Triple-A Syracuse or go straight to the majors from Double-A, but also wasn't in a sharing mood there.
"He's doing everything he needs to do to make himself major-league ready," Rizzo said. "And of course, the poise and the stuff and the power is there."
I talked more with Rizzo about his development philosophy in the entry for his weekly blog, "National Matters." We shot video for that today, and that's coming soon to MASNSports.com.