: $15 million. Not an amateur anymore. Tonight, he will pitch in his first Major League game for the Washington Nationals. NPR's Joseph Shapiro reports.
JOSEPH SHAPIRO: Before he's even thrown his first pitch, on sports talk radio, TV and Internet sites, Stephen Strasburg's been called the best pitching phenom in years. Here's Curt Schilling recently on ESPN.
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CURT SCHILLING: Unidentified Man #1: Really?
SCHILLING: Unidentified Man #1: Nothing close?
SCHILLING: No, not at that age, that polished.
SHAPIRO: But here's why there is so much interest in Stephen Strasburg. He really does have the potential to be great. Thomas Boswell is a baseball writer and columnist for the Washington Post.
THOMAS BOSWELL: There are very few pitchers who, from the first day they arrive in the Major Leagues, are clearly seen as part of an arc of pitchers in baseball history that they resemble so strongly in their potential that people can't wait to see where they fall along that range of pitchers.
SHAPIRO: Strasburg could be one of those prospects who turn out to be busts, or who shows flashes of brilliances and then, and it's a common hazard for pitchers, has a career-blunting injury.
BOSWELL: Or at the high end of the most optimistic you can conceivably be, Roger Clemens, all-time great. That's what we're talking about.
SHAPIRO: Boswell knows that even great pitchers often get off to rocky starts.
BOSWELL: In Roger Clemens' first six starts, he pitched home and away - good teams, bad teams - and got hit by everybody. People in New England were, oh, my Lord. By the middle of the next year, his second season, he was having shoulder surgery to end his season. People thought Clemens was a huge bust.
SHAPIRO: Stan Kasten knows. He's the Nationals' team president. He talked from the team's dugout before a game this weekend.
STAN KASTEN: This is unprecedented, the amount of attention he's gotten. I've been in the sports business for 30 years, and I've never been around an occasion where an incoming player had this kind of a spotlight focused on him.
SHAPIRO: The Nationals started Strasburg in the minors, in part so, with less scrutiny, he could experience bad pitching days.
KASTEN: Yeah, we had a hitch in that plan. Yeah.
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SHAPIRO: But Strasburg blew through minor league hitters.
KASTEN: Yeah, we wanted him to work on all the stuff related to having men on base, and alas, he just never had a lot of men on base. And we wanted to see how he would bounce back from a real drubbing. And alas, he never got that drubbing.
SHAPIRO: Unidentified Man #2: The Washington Nationals select Bryce Harper.
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SHAPIRO: Joseph Shapiro, NPR News.
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