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Nationals pitcher Strasburg Strasburg makes his major league debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 8, 2010. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
Lucas Giolito, who is widely regarded as the top pitching prospect in baseball, will make his major league debut on a Tuesday in June at Nationals Park, just as Stephen Strasburg — the man he will replace in the rotation, at least for one start — did six years ago.
The hype surrounding the 21-year-old Giolito’s first start — opposite Mets right-hander Matt Harvey, no less — is real, but it’s nowhere near the level of excitement that preceded Strasburg’s 14-strikeout introduction to the big leagues in 2010.
Tickets for Strasburg’s debut, which came one year after the Nationals made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 MLB draft, sold out within hours of the team’s announcement that he would start. The Nationals sold extra standing-room-only tickets for the first time, and ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” broadcast from within Nationals Park on the night of the game.
Anyone who wanted to see Giolito, the 16th player selected in the 2012 MLB draft out of Harvard-Westlake High in Los Angeles, make his debut could still find tickets on StubHub or the Nationals’ site for about $20 as of Tuesday afternoon.
The Post’s Sports section on the day of Stephen Strasburg’s debut.
— #VoteNats (@Nationals) June 28, 2016
Giolito’s arrival ranks, at best, a distant third on the list of the most anticipated major league debuts by a Washington pitcher in D.C. baseball history behind Strasburg and Walter Johnson, who made his first start at National Park on Aug. 2, 1907.
Like Strasburg, who was viewed as a potential savior for a team that had lost at least 100 games in consecutive seasons and had finished no better than 81-81 since its inaugural season in 2005, Johnson signing with the Senators out of the Idaho State League in 1907 provided Washington fans a rare reason to be optimistic about the team’s future. The Senators had won no more than 64 games in their first six seasons in the American League.
Unlike Strasburg or Giolito, there was precious little coverage of Johnson’s development before he reached the major leagues. When injured catcher Cliff Blankenship sent word to D.C. that he had signed Johnson while on a scouting trip to Idaho in June of 1907, he failed to mention whether the 19-year-old pitcher was a right-hander or a left-hander. Still, Senators Manager Joe Cantillon was elated about the addition of a prospect who had allowed no runs and struck out 166 batters in 85 innings.
“If this fellow is what they say he is, we won’t have to use only two men in a game, a catcher and Johnson,” Cantillon told The Post. “He strikes out most of the men, so why have an infield and an outfield? I shall give all the boys but the catchers days off when Johnson pitches.”
Johnson joined the Senators in July, and his first start came sooner than Cantillon had originally planned. Via The Post:
There will be a double attraction at National Park this afternoon. A double-header with the Detroit Tigers is on the programme, and in addition thereto. Manager Cantillon announced yesterday that he would pitch Walter Johnson, the Idaho phenom, in the final game of the two-barreled matinee.
With Graham and Hughes unable to work because of sore arms, Cantillon was forced to spring his youthful wonder on the local fans much sooner than he expected. He did intend to allow the young man to get much better acquainted before shoving him on the rubber. But with his pitching staff shot to pieces, he was forced to decide to work Johnson to-day.
In words that could apply to Giolito on the day of his major league debut more than a century later, The Post’s J. E. Grillo cautioned fans against judging Johnson based off how he performed in his first start:
“Too much must not be expected of Walter Johnson, the young pitcher who is to receive his first try-out to-day. That Johnson has a lot of natural ability, and in course of time will make a pitcher, is conceded by all those who have seen him work, but the fact must not be overlooked that he lacks experience, and that is essential in the major leagues, where as much depends upon what a pitcher knows as on what he has in the way of shoots and curves.
“Johnson may be a success right from the outset of his major league career, but if he should be an absolute failure it would not mean that he will never make a pitcher. He is but nineteen years old, is strong and husky, and has lots in the way of speed and other deliveries which tend to puzzle a batsman. Being a young man, it is the local club’s intention to carry him along regardless of what he may show until he develops, but, of course, he may deliver the goods right from the start, which would be most remarkable.”
Johnson was more remarkable than he was a failure in his debut, allowing two runs on six hits and one walk over eight innings. He struck out three and took the hard-luck loss in front of more than 5,000 fans in D.C.
“Walter Johnson, the Idaho phenom, who made his debut in fast company yesterday, showed conclusively that he is perhaps the most promising young pitcher who has broken into a major league in recent years,” the Post reported the following day. ” … Johnson, of course, has many things to learn. He realizes this, and, being of at least average intelligence, he will learn without much trouble. He has some rough edges, but he has more natural ability than any pitcher seen in these parts in many a moon, and it really seems that Cantillon has picked up a real live phenom.”
Five days later, Johnson limited the Indians to four hits to record the first of his 417 career wins.
Forget about Giolito approaching Strasburg’s dazzling debut. The Nationals don’t need him to be a savior, and he might soon return to the minors. A start on par with Walter Johnson’s first in the major leagues would be considered a success, but if that doesn’t happen, take comfort in the fact that he’s only 21, has many things to learn and, by all accounts, is of at least average intelligence.
The box score from Walter Johnson’s major league debut.
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Source : https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dc-sports-bog/wp/2016/06/28/109-years-before-lucas-giolitos-debut-senators-fans-were-hyped-for-walter-johnson/