Indians come away impressed by Strasburg

Indians come away impressed by Strasburg

CLEVELAND -- Manny Acta tried his best to bring Stephen Strasburg down a peg this week.

In the days leading up to Sunday's game, particularly those that followed the rookie phenom's eye-popping debut Tuesday night, the Indians' manager reminded his players that they had seen Strasburg before.

OK, not Strasburg, per se. But they'd faced Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander and a host of other Major League pitchers blessed with the ability to light up radar guns.

How could this 21-year-old kid be any different?

By the time Sunday evening rolled around, after Strasburg helped the Nationals hand the Tribe a 9-4 loss in which the Washington right-hander worked 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball with eight strikeouts, the Indians echoed the sentiments of their skipper.

Strasburg isn't invincible, but he sure is special.

"There's a reason why they picked him with the first pick in the Draft last year," Russell Branyan said. "He's got a good, young arm that's very promising."

Promising enough to already prompt questions of whether Strasburg could eventually rank as one of baseball's premier hurlers.

"If he stays healthy, I'm sure he'll be fine," Austin Kearns said.

The Indians had some inviting opportunities to make Strasburg look ordinary Sunday, but they could do nothing with the five walks he issued them. Travis Hafner's second-inning solo home run, a frozen rope fueled by a 100-mph Strasburg heater, served as the lone dent to the pitcher's ERA.

"Any time you can throw consistent strikes at 100 mph, you're in good shape," Trevor Crowe said.

From the Indians' standpoint, all of the pressure Sunday was squarely on Strasburg's shoulders.

"There's an expectation for him to perform," Branyan said. "He went out there and competed. We just weren't able to string anything together."

All week, Acta urged his players to not get caught up in the attention surrounding Strasburg. That simplified approach bore dividends Sunday, as Strasburg exited in the sixth after throwing 95 pitches.

But the Indians couldn't capitalize when it mattered most, finishing 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranding nine men.

"We felt like we could have quality at-bats and forget about all the hoopla," Acta said. "We didn't want one guy thinking he had to be a hero.

"But when you're facing a guy who can throw that hard at will, you have your hands full."

Kerry Wood was once the rising star Strasburg is today. After watching the touted flamethrower in person Sunday, Wood came away with a reaction quite common in the Tribe clubhouse: impressed.

"It was obviously a lot of hype for good reason. He's got tremendous stuff," Wood said. "For a guy like that to have that kind of command, it's pretty impressive."

So impressive that Strasburg has the chance to author a career for the ages, in the opinion of his mound opponent Sunday.

"A guy like him comes around once every blue moon," Indians starter David Huff said. "It's great for the game."

John Barone is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.