Pending rain, Stephen Strasburg will make his 2011 debut tonight for the Washington Nationals. The former San Diego State University star will be making his first major league start in over a year after being forced to undergo Tommy John surgery to reconstruct his elbow last fall.
Ever since Nats fans saw Strasburg recoil in pain during the fifth inning of a stellar start against the Philadelphia Phillies last August, they have waited anxiously for the man considered the savoir of the franchise to return. Despite the amazing advances in elbow surgeries over the past decade, even the most reasonable Nationals fan has worried that the young 23-year-old who electrified baseball for two months last summer, may never be the same.
That is what makes tonight so important. Hope has been something very hard to come by for fans in Washington, and pessimism and disappointment has been in high supply. When Strasburg made his debut in 2010, the city began to feel good about baseball for the first time in a very long while. Even though he was just one player, his presence, the presence of something positive and exciting, briefly changed the attitude about baseball in Washington.
Since the injury however, that hope has been closely guarded. An eventful season filled with an introduction of exciting players like Wilson Ramos and Danny Espinosa, coupled with the shocking resignation of Jim Riggleman and the onset of the Davey Johnson era, have provided a much needed distraction. It has allowed us Nats fans to forget the magic that Strasburg brought to the stadium each night he pitched, and in the process hopefully created new fans on its own.
It certainly has been a roller coaster 2011, but here is hoping that Strasmus 2.0 will cap it off. Even though his Strasburg’s pitch count will be limited, a solid end to a crazy season will hopefully set the table for a memorable 2012 in Washington.