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Question of the Day: It’s only been one game, but what can we expect from Stephen Strasburg long-term? [Updated]

June 9, 2010 |  9:08 am

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Four reporters from around Tribune Co. weigh in after the pitching phenom's stellar debut with the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night. Check back throughout the day for more responses and feel free to leave a comment of your own.

[Updated at 2:45 p.m.:

Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times

History offers no comfort. The hype surrounding Stephen Strasburg has been unprecedented, but the most touted pitchers coming out of the draft in the pre-Strasburg era were Ben McDonald and Mark Prior.

McDonald was out of the majors before he turned 30, with a 78-70 record and 3.91 ERA. Prior was out of the majors at 25, with a 42-29 record and 3.51 ERA.

Injuries happen, even to Prior, billed at the time as owner of the cleanest delivery in ages. If Strasburg remains healthy -- and the Nationals plan to limit his workload -- the greatest obstacle to his long-term success might be the team for which he plays.

The Nationals are in last place in the National League East, and they have scored the fewest runs of any team in the division. How will handle Strasburg the pressure -- and probably the frustration -- inherent in not only being expected to win every start but having to win an unfair share of 2-1 and 3-2 games?]

Phil Rogers, Chicago Tribune

Pitchers are often never better than when they start their career. Remember Fernandomania in 1981? Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout game in 1998 and Mark Prior’s dominance throughout 2003 (the Bartman game excluded)?

The history of the game says that Stephen Strasburg is at risk to become another comet flashing across the baseball skies and then leaving too soon. But coming off his dominant debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates, it’s hard to project anything short of him becoming Roy Halladay with a fastball worthy of Ubaldo Jimenez or a young Dwight Gooden.

The Nationals are going to carefully monitor Strasburg’s innings and pitch counts, and will be allowed to err on the side of caution given the absence of a playoff race.

He’s got as good of a chance as any pitcher to have a long career and a better chance than any young pitcher to have a brilliant one, consistently winning 17 or 18 games a year and regularly earning Cy Young consideration. He’s the goods.

[Updated at 12:25 p.m.:

Dan Connolly, Baltimore Sun

Stephen Strasburg is going to be a very good major league pitcher. In other sports news, Kobe Bryant can shoot, soccer is loved internationally and the Baltimore Orioles are in a rebuilding mode.

Whether Strasburg rises above very good to consistently elite has more to do with circumstances off the mound than on it. Will he stay healthy? Will he keep his nose clean? Will he be able to handle the ridiculous expectations?

If the answer to all three is yes, then this guy will be phenomenal. He has three excellent pitches, and it’s debatable which is best. That curve he throws looks to be the nastiest to the naked eye. His fastball consistently reaches 99 mph and has impressive late movement. And Pittsburgh’s Lastings Milledge said it’s his changeup that’s most head-shaking.

Mandy Housenick, Allentown Morning Call

By all accounts, Stephen Strasburg appears to be the real deal. With a fastball topping out at 100 mph and a wicked changeup, he’s going to have lots of players who simply can’t catch up to his heat and who look foolish swinging way too early at his off-speed stuff. Factor in his curveball that has tons of movement and it only makes him tougher to hit. He struck out 14 on Tuesday and walked no one.

He may not be able to keep up that pace -- let’s remember he was facing the Pirates in his debut, Major League Baseball’s worst hitting team -- but he will rack up Ks. He’s only 21, and if he hasn’t reached his ceiling yet, if he stays healthy and pitches into his 40s, dare I say he has a chance to threaten Nolan Ryan’s 5,714 strikeouts?]

Photo: Stephen Strasburg. Credit: Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

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