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Stephen Strasburg drew close media scrutiny as the first pick in Major League Baseball's 2009 draft.
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During his junior year, in 2008, Strasburg racked up a 13-1 record with a 1.45 earned run average, winning the Mountain West Conference Pitcher of the Year and the Golden Spikes Award as the nation's top amateur baseball player. Strasburg was the only collegiate player selected to play on the United States national team in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, earning a bronze medal with a 2.45 ERA in his two starts.
In 2009, the Washington Nationals selected Stephen Strasburg with the first pick in the Major League Baseball draft. A few months later, the pitcher signed a four-year, $15.1 million contract — the largest rookie contract in major league history. Strasburg began his minor league career with the Double-A Harrisburg Senators before quickly moving on to the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs. Then, almost one year to the date after he was drafted, on June 8, 2010, Strasburg made his major league debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates in what Sports Illustrated called "the most hyped pitching debut the game has ever seen." Strasburg exceeded the astronomical expectations that had been placed upon him, striking out 14 batters in seven innings to set a Nationals team record in his very first outing. Over the twelve starts of his rookie campaign, Strasburg amassed a 5-3 record, 2.91 ERA and 92 strikeouts.
But his promising season ended prematurely due to a serious elbow injury that ultimately required that Strasburg undergo the dreaded Tommy John surgery, a procedure designed to repair a damaged ulnar collateral ligament. Strasburg's rehab was expected to take at least 12-18 months, and it was unclear whether his pitching would regain the same nearly unhittable level following his rehab. Baseball fans thrilled by Strasburg's stunning debut could only hope for the best.
Stephen Strasburg hopes he can regain the form that left even the most seasoned observers searching for superlatives to describe his pitching. One talent scout said, "I've never seen anyone like him. He's a once-in-a-lifetime talent." Another put it this way: "The only pitcher I could even compare him to is Roger Clemens in his heyday. This is something you have to see to believe." Before Strasburg had ever thrown a pitch in the major leagues, Curt Schilling, himself one of the best pitchers in recent history, said that he thought Strasburg would be the best pitcher in baseball from the first day he stepped on the mound. But Strasburg insists that he is not concerned with achieving historic greatness, but only with getting healthy continuing to improve. "I know I still have a lot to learn," he says. "All that stuff will take care of itself."
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