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Rain cuts short Nats prospect Strasburg's start

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Washington Nationals top prospect Stephen Strasburg's first home start for Double-A Harrisburg was memorable before he even threw a pitch.

Rain delayed the game for more than two hours before a power surge forced the stadium lights to go out in the middle of pregame ceremonies.

The 21-year-old right-hander impressed when he finally got to the mound, striking out three and allowing an unearned run in 2 1-3 innings to New Britain before his night ended in the top of the third after another downpour with the score tied at 1. Rafael Martin came on in relief when play resumed about an hour later.

The rain delay is just another lesson in the education of the highly anticipated prospect.

The pitcher from San Diego State was the No. 1 overall pick in June's amateur draft and signed a record $15.1 million, four-year contract with the Nationals.

He was Washington's best starter in spring training, but still got sent to the minors to get more experience. Strasburg is known for his fastball and knee-buckling offspeed pitches, but his coaches at Harrisburg say the prospect needs to get used to the pace of the pro game.

"It's not really anything specific because his mechanics are really good already," Senators pitching coach Randy Tomlin said before Friday's game.

"The big thing is to be ready when he's out (there), be able to throw the ball where he wants to and make adjustments while he's out there," he said.

Otherwise for Strasburg, it's thought to be a question of when — and not if — the 6-foot-4 righty pitches in the big leagues this season.

Strasburg threw 32 pitches. A scoreboard display showing pitch speed also didn't work — though his fastballs seemed to be giving the Rock Cats trouble.

Ben Revere led off the game by leaning back while watching a Strasburg fastball get past him for a strike. Two pitches later, Revere swung weakly through another fastball for a strikeout and walked slowly back to the dugout as fans cheered wildly.

Strasburg encountered his only bout of trouble in the second inning with two outs. Joe Benson hit a weak chopper to third but reached second after third baseman Adam Fox threw wildly to first.

Juan Portes followed by lining a 2-1 pitch to the left-field wall to drive home Benson. Strasburg struck out Estarlin De Los Santos looking on four pitches to end the inning.

Strasburg's coaches and teammates insist he is just one of the guys, a 21-year-old being treated like any other minor league rookie.

He's a quiet, low-key professional in the clubhouse, sometimes almost too quiet — enough so that he gets a ribbing for his silence, manager Randy Knorr said.

"We just mess around with him, just like anybody else. Make fun of him, just like anybody," Knorr said. "He just won't say anything."

But Strasburg is no ordinary prospect.

"Stephen Strasburg is coming," a Senators announcer yelled into a microphone on the field as fans waited through the first rain delay.