By now, it's fairly clear the Nationals know roughly when Stephen Strasburg will make his major-league debut. It's equally clear that they have little or no interest in sharing that date with the public, at least not yet.
Manager Jim Riggleman said on Wednesday afternoon that the Nationals discuss when Strasburg will make his debut, but added they might not announce it at all. I heard today that Strasburg will likely make a start for Syracuse on June 3 or 4, with a debut the following week at Nationals Park the next logical step. But with enough variables still in play, the Nationals are staying mum.
"We're at a point where we talk about when this young man's going to come up and pitch for us, but we're not going to announce anything," Riggleman said. "We can know that right up to the moment that we name him to pitch, but we're not going to announce that. Again, there's procedural things, there's other players affected by it. There's too many reasons not to announce it, so we're not going to announce anything."
According to one source in the organization, the Nationals are taking the cautious route with Strasburg in part because of the intense speculation and interest in his first start, wanting to make sure they've taken every last measure in the minors to prepare him for the big leagues before he steps into a media crush that could rival postseason baseball.
And Riggleman said the Nationals have to be careful about making an announcement because they could indirectly offend whomever Strasburg is replacing in the rotation.
"It affects a lot of people," Riggleman said. "When it's now, I liken it to, whatever, April 3 if Opening Day's April 5 - who made the club? Who didn't make the club? And a week later, nobody remembers, because the roster's already changed. When this is all said and done, the fact that we nailed down the date he's going to pitch is going to be a non-entity. It's all going to be about when he does pitch, and people get excited about it and all that. But leading up to it, we may or may not announce it. That'll be an organizational decision. But we have a pretty good idea of when he's going to pitch."
Riggleman also said he never hears players talking about Strasburg and when he'll arrive. "Our players know he's going to be here. They're not caught up in what day exactly it's going to be," he said. "They know he's going to be here at some point, and they'll look forward to it and welcome it. But everybody's focused on the day-to-day, trying to win the ballgame at hand, not really thinking how many days ahead that he'll be here."