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Skyrocketing Strasburg promoted to Syracuse

Skyrocketing Strasburg promoted to Syracuse

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals promoted highly touted right-hander Stephen Strasburg to Triple-A Syracuse on Tuesday afternoon. He is slated to make his Syracuse debut on Friday, when the Chiefs host the Gwinnett Braves at Alliance Bank Stadium.

Strasburg, the first overall selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, went 3-1 with a 1.64 ERA in five starts with Double-A Harrisburg. With 27 strikeouts and six walks in 22 innings pitched, he recorded a 4.5-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 11.05 strikeouts per nine innings.

The 21-year-old ranks among the Eastern League's top pitchers in several categories: strikeouts (first), WHIP (second), baserunners per nine innings (second), batting average against (third) and ERA (fourth).

"It was part of the plan," general manager Mike Rizzo said. "We saw what we had to see. He did the things we asked for him to do -- work on things we asked him to work on. We thought it was time for him to take the next step -- get to Triple-A, face veteran, seasoned hitters and deal with a tighter strike zone. We want him to take the next step in his development."

As first reported by MLB.com, the Nationals planned last week to send him to Syracuse after his Sunday start against Altoona. Strasburg's last start was his worst for Harrisburg, pitching 4 2/3 innings and allowing four runs (three earned) on six hits. The numbers didn't seem to bother Rizzo or his staff.

"We never judge developmental progress by how many hits, run and statistics that are out there," Rizzo said. "We judge developmental progress by stuff, poise and the way he conducts his business.

"I think he is excited for the new challenge. It's a step in the direction he wants to be in. His confidence is high. He believes he could pitch in the big leagues right now. That's the confidence level that we want him to have. He understands that we are doing what works best for him and the franchise, and he is on board with every step."

In his first start against Gwinnett, Strasburg is expected to pitch six innings or throw 85 to 90 pitches. Washington wants him to improve on fielding his position and holding runners.

With Strasburg in Triple-A, the media is speculating that Strasburg will make his Major League debut sometime in June. But Rizzo declined when to say when the right-hander will play his first big league game.

Nationals manager Jim Riggleman is not thinking about Strasburg until he gets to the big leagues.

"I don't think about it too much," Riggleman said. "I'm so focused on this ballclub, I don't think too much on who might be here."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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