A pause on stunning promise

Updated: August 27, 2010, 12:06 PM ET
By Buster Olney

Medicine never could help Herb Score become, again, what he once was as a pitcher. Nor Dizzy Dean nor J.R. Richard. Sandy Koufax was always brilliant until he couldn't take the pain anymore, and so after he won 27 games and posted a 1.73 ERA in 1966, he announced his retirement -- at age 30.

At least Stephen Strasburg will have a fighting chance, because medicine will help him.

Pitchers almost always come back from elbow reconstructions with their velocity and command restored. Next spring, we will see Strasburg playing catch on flat ground. By late next year -- or no later than the spring of 2012 -- he should be back on a major league mound, probably throwing as hard as ever, probably with something close to the control that has distinguished him.

But there is a sadness tied to the news that he has a torn elbow ligament, because even after he could not have possibly lived up to the hype, he exceeded it. He has been as good as we all had heard. The greatest pitching prospect ever. A fastball in triple digits, a breaking ball that buckles knees and breaks convention, and above all else, a young man who seems equipped to handle his talent, his stardom.

Strasburg stopped by the "Baseball Tonight" studios earlier this year, and he really wasn't any different than a lot of others who tour the ESPN campus. Polite and wide-eyed, quiet but funny. And he seemed so comfortable with himself.

You can see the competitiveness when he pitches, the momentary flash of anger when a hitter does something untoward. There is something old-school about him, but also something down home. He had a chance to be a real leader for the Nationals, and for baseball, in 2011.

Maybe he will be in 2012. Probably he will be. The doctors can find solutions for him in a way that they could not for Score, nor Dean, Richard, Koufax. The doctors can tell Strasburg exactly how he'll be fixed, exactly how he'll probably heal, exactly when he can throw a fastball at full speed again.

But for fans of baseball who like brilliant pitching, it feels as though Christmas has been postponed.

A Chase for consistency

The Diamondbacks are looking into ways to make their ballpark more friendly for pitchers, writes Nick Piecoro, including the installation of a humidor.

This is all very smart, and it goes beyond the reality that most contenders are built on the success of their pitching. There are two lessons that the Diamondbacks can learn from Colorado, which became a better and more efficient organization once it began using its humidor and gave its pitchers a better chance in Coors Field.

No. 1: It's very, very difficult to develop young pitchers in an acute hitters' park. Good pitches turn into hits, bad habits become engrained and the home ballpark is unforgiving -- relative to other ballparks -- when a pitcher makes a mistake. That's a serious problem.