You wait days for a ‘pitching phenom’ to make his debut and then two come along at once. Aroldis Chapman wowed the Royals, scouts and speed guns yesterday; today it’s the turn of the Washington Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg. The Nationals are playing the Detroit Tigers today, with first pitch set for 18.05 GMT.
In days of old, this would be smothered in politics: Chapman from Communist Cuba against a Star Spangled Strasburg. There may still be a bit of that in the background, but for the majority of us it’s just pure baseball.
Chapman came on in relief of Bronson Arroyo yesterday evening, British time, after the Reds’ starter pitched two perfect innings. That sequence was broken straight away as fellow Cuban Brayan Pena singled to lead off the third inning, although it didn’t seem to bother Chapman all that much. He ended up pitching two scoreless innings, striking out three batters in the process. The only live commentary on MLB.com was via the Royals’ radio crew, the Reds’ being conspicuous by their absence, but they did a great job of putting across the ‘event’.
A small crowd of just over 2,000 meant that the loud ‘oohs and ahhs’ I had anticipated didn’t thunder over the airwaves, or the Internet in my case. Still, the appeal of listening in to the game was not so much that it was a big moment in itself, but that it was the start of what could be a very promising career. The comments after the game, most lyrically described (as always) by Joe Posnanski, suggested that the “I remember listening to his Spring Training debut” tales will be broken out in years to come.
The same applies to Strasburg, although in his case MLB.TV subscribers will be able to say they “watched” his debut. He’s scheduled to pitch two innings today and they are sure to be two of the most-watched innings of Spring Training.