Phillies Notes: Manuel and his team await Nats' Strasburg

Posted: August 21, 2010

The only player on the Phillies' roster to face Stephen Strasburg saw the Nationals' phenom when he was still a Harrisburg Senator.

Domonic Brown came away impressed nonetheless.

"He's dominating," said Brown, who was 0 for 2 against Strasburg with a strikeout on April 27. "It's very electric stuff. He throws everything for strikes. When he's on, it's tough to hit."

The Phillies will have their first of what is likely to be many looks at Strasburg on Saturday when he starts opposite of Kyle Kendrick at Citizens Bank Park.

He arrived in Washington as arguably the most hyped prospect ever. The results have not disappointed: The 22-year-old is 5-3 with a 2.97 ERA in 11 starts. He has 86 strikeouts in 632/3 innings.

"I'm excited to see him pitch," Charlie Manuel said. "But I don't want him to beat us. I want us to beat him."

The Phillies manager said he's watched Strasburg about as often as he can. When he misses the rookie live, he sees constant highlights of his performances.

So what would his approach be?

"I'm looking for a fastball," Manuel said. "I'm telling you that."

Brown said that was his intention going up. It didn't matter. "He must not have dingered because he didn't come and tell me," Manuel quipped.

Since returning from the disabled list Aug. 10 after shoulder stiffness, Strasburg hasn't been as dominant as before. In two starts, he has allowed seven earned runs in 91/3 innings (a 6.75 ERA). His stuff is still some of the best in the majors.

What impresses Manuel the most is the way Strasburg can command the powerful fastball, which has been clocked above 100 m.p.h. more than once this season.

"That's very unusual," Manuel said. "When you think of how good his stuff is and when you can command it, that's part of the package. That's what makes him good."

Strasburg's average fastball velocity is 97.3 m.p.h., according to data from Baseball Info Solutions. That makes it the fastest fastball among starters in the majors.

His average change-up velocity is 89.7 m.p.h., also the hardest among starting pitchers. Consider, for example, Jamie Moyer, whose average fastball velocity is 80.9 m.p.h. It's almost 10 m.p.h. slower than Strasburg's change-up.

When Brown faced Strasburg, the pitcher no-hit the Reading Phillies for five innings. Saturday poses just a slightly harder challenge.

"We'll see what happens with that," Brown said, smiling.

Herndon waits, succeeds

On Friday, David Herndon had his right arm wrapped in a sleeve, the by-product of a line drive that struck him Thursday night. Just a little stiffness, Herndon said.

More notably, the righthander was able to finish perhaps his best outing of the season - three perfect innings with three strikeouts against the Giants.

It was Herndon's first appearance in nine days and just his second since July 30.

"It gave me time to work on some stuff," Herndon said.

The Phillies must keep Herndon, a Rule 5 pick, on the 25-man roster for the entire season or they must offer him back to the Los Angeles Angels. He has a 4.46 ERA in 401/3 innings pitched.

Stashing Herndon hasn't been a terrible challenge. Phillies relievers have pitched the fewest innings of any major-league team (by far) and rarely has a long man been required.

Obviously, the Phillies would prefer to have Herndon, 24, pitching in the minors, where his development would progress better with regular work. But they have succeeded in keeping him around all season, as required by the rules. When the rosters expand on Sept. 1, it becomes even easier.

Don't be surprised if Herndon spends time in winter ball during the off-season to rack up more innings so he can compensate for the lack of usage during the season.

"The more he gets to pitch, the more we'll be able to tell his progress," Manuel said.

Extra bases

Roy Oswalt will start in the series finale Sunday, which means he will not pitch against his former team, the Houston Astros. Houston visits Philadelphia for a four-game series beginning Monday.

Contact staff writer Matt Gelb

at 215-854-2928 or Follow on Twitter @magelb.

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