One series after Cole Hamels passed through Petco Park, another former local pitching star arrived today, also wearing red. If a Padres fan wants to turn green, imagine both of them pitching for San Diego.
"Early on, I was a diehard Padres fan," Stephen Strasburg was saying from the visiting dugout, while wearing No. 37 for the Washington Nationals.
His father bought a Padres mini-season ticket plan and would sit with Stephen in Petco's lower-level seats beyond left field. Stephen studied Trevor Hoffman warming up in the bullpen. He especially liked watching Jake Peavy pitch.
Strasburg would play for his favorite Padre of them all, Tony Gwynn, at San Diego State.
When he finally pitches a major league game at Petco, his bucket list will shrink by one.
Strasburg called it "unfortunate" that he'll not pitch here this week, but this blog detected no chagrin from Padres hitters. With one strikeout per inning, a 2-0 record and a 1.08 ERA, Strasburg appears to have mended from the reconstructive elbow surgery performed by Angels doctor Lewis Yocum in September 2010. The subsequent rehab allowed the 23-year-old to further strengthen his arm, shoulder, torso and legs, giving him even more of a lean, powerful look.
"I'm definitely a lot stronger physically now," he said. "My arm recovers a lot faster."
Like Hamels, who is Petco's ERA leader, he knows from experience that downtown San Diego is a heavenly place to pitch. Twice he pitched at Petco for San Diego State. Talking as if Petco is one of the eight wonders of the baseball world, he recalled the worrisome flyball that a Michigan player hit off him.
Strasburg figured the ball would sail over the batter's eye some 30 feet behind the wall.
"Our center fielder caught in the middle of center field," he said.
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