Strasburg to face Indians in second start
Strasburgmania has hit the road.
With rookie sensation Stephen Strasburg set to make his second major league start in Cleveland, the Indians, ranked last overall in attendance, sold more than 3,000 tickets on Wednesday for Sunday's game against the 21-year-old, who struck out 14 in his dazzling debut.
The Washington Nationals confirmed that Strasburg will start Sunday at Progressive Field. On Tuesday, he dominated the Pittsburgh Pirates for seven innings in a 5-2 win before a standing-room-only crowd of 40,315 in the nation's capital.
His appearance is giving a much-needed attendance bump to the Indians, who are in last place in the AL Central and only averaging 15,527 fans at home game.
The team has sold 4,300 tickets since last week, when it appeared Strasburg would face Cleveland in his second game. The Indians have sold nearly 4,000 tickets since Monday morning, including 2,000 since noon — shortly after Strasburg's second start was officially announced.
Strasburg's stop in Cleveland is expected to draw the Indians' second-largest crowd this season. It will also include 91-year-old Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller, whose entrance into the majors as a 17-year-old in 1936 created a similar national stir.
Feller didn't seem overly excited to see Strasburg.
"Is he excited to see me? No,'' Feller said. "I'll be here. If he can throw 105 mph, I'll tell him to throw his changeup at 102.''
The Indians, who once had 455 consecutive home sellouts, were only sold out on opening day this season. Their second-biggest crowd was 25,531 in the 43,000-seat ballpark.
"It's creating a fan buzz around baseball,'' Indians spokesman Bob DiBiasio said, adding the team will provide a further update on ticket sales later. "It's something we're excited about, to be able to play host to the young man's first road start.''
Strasburg's 14 strikeouts are the most in a major league debut since J.R. Richard fanned 15 for Houston in 1971.
After hearing about Strasburg's performance, Red Sox manager Terry Francona said he was eager to watch the highlights.
"He's good for baseball, very good for the game. As long as they keep him over in that league,'' he joked. "I'm sure there will be a lot of added interest, as there should be. It's very exciting. You haven't seen that kind of electricity in a while. That was fun to watch.''
Indians manager Manny Acta noted the coincidence that Strasburg's debut will come in Cleveland. Acta spent 2 1/2 seasons with the National before he was fired last July.
"The kid is special and I hope he stays healthy so he can accomplish a lot,'' Acta said. "It's good for their franchise. Those fans deserve something. All he has to do is stay healthy. He's gifted. I just wish him health.''
Indians closer Kerry Wood can appreciate Strasburg's quick rise to celebrity. Wood struck out 20 batters in just his fifth major league start.
"My first start was nowhere near what he did,'' said Wood, who debuted at 20 for the Chicago Cubs in 1998. "I watched the highlights of what he did and it brought back memories.''
Wood was asked what advice he would give baseball's new phenom.
"Try and block it (hype) out and go out and pitch,'' Wood said. "He looks like he is very poised. He throws hard, but throws it free and easy and has a good curve, too. I was hoping he would do well because it is so good for the game, for that team, for that city.''