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Strasburg coming to Hagerstown

Nationals ace will pitch for Suns on Sunday

August 04, 2011|By BOB PARASILITI | bobp@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — One of the biggest days in Hagerstown Suns history will come Sunday on the anniversary of the franchise’s other biggest day.

The Washington Nationals’ prized ace, Stephen Strasburg, will start for the Suns on Sunday in a 4:05 p.m. game against Greensboro — his first rehabilitation outing since undergoing elbow ligament replacement surgery last September.

The Suns received official notification of Strasburg’s appearance on Thursday.

Strasburg’s outing will come on the 28th anniversary of former Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer’s first of two rehab starts in Hagerstown on Aug. 7, 1983. On that day, the Suns had one of the largest crowds ever at Municipal Stadium, announced at 6,192 fans.

Strasburg, the top selection in the 2009 Major League amateur draft, will provide Hagerstown one of the bigger new draws in baseball.

The Suns also played host to Bryce Harper — the No. 1 overall pick in 2010 and Washington’s top prospect — for three months this season as the start of his climb to the majors.

“I think this will be bigger than Harper,” said Suns general manager Bill Farley. “Strasburg is a proven major league player and one of the brightest talents in baseball. This is going to be a real treat for the fans and for us.

“We just thought of Jim Palmer’s appearance here and it would be great if we could break the attendance mark that was on that day.”

Strasburg’s appearance should lead to a significant jump in attendance over a normal Sunday afternoon crowd.

“The phones have been ringing off the hook,” Farley said. “We don’t have any reserved seats left. There are only general admission seats available.”

Strasburg, 23, is scheduled to throw one or two innings for the Suns in the first real game he has pitched since injuring his right arm on Aug. 21, 2010 against Philadelphia. He underwent Tommy John surgery to replace a torn ulnar collateral ligament on Sept. 3. Recovery from the surgery usually takes 10 to 14 months.

Strasburg was an instant media star when he was drafted on June 9, 2009. He made his Nationals debut by striking out 14 batters in seven innings in a victory over Pittsburgh on June 8, 2010, his first of 12 starts. He was 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 68 innings when his season ended with the injury.

When Strasburg pitches Sunday, it will end six months of recovery work and pitching in simulated games at the Nationals’ extended spring training site in Viera, Fla. According to reports, Strasburg’s fastball has come back to 95 mph.

According to reports, Strasburg will probably be scheduled to pitch every five days after Sunday’s start, meaning he may pitch again on Aug. 12, 17 and 22 in rehab outings. The Nationals will try to mirror his schedule with that of starter Jordan Zimmermann.

Plans are to end Zimmermann’s season in early September once he reaches 160 innings and have Strasburg pick up his spot in the Nationals’ rotation. Zimmermann had Tommy John surgery in 2009 and also rehabbed with the Suns.

n The Suns also announced that the light pole that fell during a heavy storm on July 22 was being replaced on Thursday and will be ready for use for tonight’s game.

“It should be up and we should be able to turn on the lights (by Thursday night),” Farley said. “No more day games. Now our fans will be able to come see instead of being at work when we are playing.”

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