Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
The talented Stephen Strasburg had exceeded expectations on his Nationals debut last year.
The talented Stephen Strasburg had exceeded expectations on his Nationals debut last year.

Washington eyes Stephen Strasburg's second coming

The Nationals have had a season to forget and their fabulously talented pitcher's return from injury will be a sight for sore eyes.

It has been a long and disappointing season for the Washington Nationals.

Their manager abruptly quit in June. Their big free-agent acquisition has been a bust. And the possibility of (another) last-place finish cannot yet be ruled out.

But hope is on the horizon. On Tuesday, Stephen Strasburg will return to the mound, having missed more than a year after undergoing tendon transplant surgery on his right elbow.

This is not just any pitcher. Strasburg is fabulously talented, having arrived at the major leagues with huge advance billing in 2010, only to somehow exceed the hype. Strasburg was brilliant, racking up double figure strikeout games and generally overpowering opposing hitters, all with far more experience.

But after just a dozen major league starts, Strasburg's elbow gave way, putting his career in limbo and the Nationals' dreams on hold. After a long and tedious rehabilitation programme and a half-dozen minor league starts, Strasburg is ready to return.

"I've got a spot [in the starting rotation] open for him," Davey Johnson, the manager, said. What manager would not?

The anticipation for his return is nearly as palpable as it was for his major league debut. Fans have been speculating for weeks and weeks about the exact date of his return, creating a huge demand for an otherwise uninteresting September game for a team 25 games away from first place. Baseball has been a tough sell in the nation's capital.

Two other franchises failed and this third try seems to have come about as a result of MLB lacking any other suitable options. The Nats drew well in the first year in their new ballpark, but soon the novelty wore off and what was left was a team which was not very competitive.

The drafting, courting and signing of Strasburg was a summer-long soap opera in 2009, and his gradual ascension up the Nationals' minor league chain was followed more closely than the uninteresting performance of the parent team.

When Strasburg made his major league debut in June 2010 and struck out 14, the wait seemed worth it. Then, nearly as quickly as the excitement built, it subsided with the news that Strasburg's elbow needed surgery.

In a very real sense, the first five-plus months of 2011 have been a mere warm-up for Strasburg's return.

When he pitches, the Nationals are suddenly relevant. By having Strasburg make four or so starts in the final week, the club is getting an indication of his readiness and preparing for 2012, while, at the same time, whetting the appetite of the fan base.

And for the second time in 15 months, the fans cannot wait.

sports@thenational.ae

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Glenn Maxwell's knock that followed ensured Brendon McCullum's knock went in vain after his explosive half-century took Chennai Super Kings past the 200-mark. Ravindranath K / The National

All is well with Punjab as Maxwell and Miller seal win against Chennai

The Australian missed out on a century but his 95 runs, along with Miller's unbeaten half-century, ensured Kings XI scaled a mighty peak of a target in a hot first game of Abu Dhabi's double-header.

 Sunderland manager Gus Poyet protests during the Premier League match against Crystal Palace at The Stadium of Light in Sunderland, northeast England, on March 15, 2014. Ian MacNicol / AFP

Sunderland going out of Premier League with a grumble

Northeast club have underwhelmed during seven-year stay in the top flight

 Hamburg players leave the field after the match against Borussia Moenchengladbach on March 30, 2014. AFP

Hamburg the dinosaur’s time may be up in Bundesliga

Ever-present for 51 years in the German top-flight, Hamburg face the prospect of relegation, writes Ian Hawkey.

 At 105 kg, Gabrielle Garcia has dominated the world circuit and loves many things about being in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National

Garcia seeks fresh challenge in MMA after her jiu-jitsu domination

Brazilian prides being a lioness in the sport but feels she can shed 25kg weight to pursue her MMA debut aspirations.

 England's Jonathan Trott hits out during the ICC Champions Trophy semi final match against South Africa at The Oval cricket ground, London June 19, 2013. REUTERS/Philip Brown

England’s Jonathan Trott sidelined with stress-related illness again

Jonathan Trott is to take a second break from professional cricket because of his stress-related illness as England and Wales Cricket Board and Warwickshire confirmed he will stop playing with immediate effect.

 Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho looks on during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Chelsea at the Liberty Stadium on April 13, 2014 in Swansea, Wales. Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

‘That’s why we are a top club’ says Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech

Jose Mourinho’s men will temporarily claim the Premier League top spot if they beat Sunderland, leaving them in control of their own destiny in the title race ahead of a crucial trip to face Liverpool at Anfield on April 27.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National