Tonight is a big night for the Washington Nationals organization. Just as they did a year ago with Stephen Strasburg, tonight they will unveil their newest prized possession, Bryce Harper. The 17-year-old will be making his "professional debut," not on the field but instead as a $9.9 million debutant being introduced into society.
For Harper it will be a brief introduction before what promises to be several of the most brutal and torturous months of his quite young life. After today's ceremonies, the pomp-and-circumstance will be gone and he will undergo a total deconstruction of his pre-conceived amateur baseball life as the Nationals will prepare him for life as a professional. He will report to the teams Gulf Coast camp, not to play, but to work on every miniscule detail of his game so that when he makes his minor league debut next year he is in a place to succeed.
There is no question that when the Nationals picked today's date to introduce Harper, they did so because it was the day that Stephen Strasburg was scheduled to start. The possibility of presenting the franchise's two beacons of future hope on the same day to a home crowd against the renowned St. Louis Cardinals had to be a prospect that made Stan Kasten and the Lerner's salivate. However, with Strasburg suffering an injury in his most recent start, he will be out for tonight's festivities.
While there is no replacement for Strasmus, and to be honest, it would be really cool to see those two on the same field together, even if only one was in uniform, Nationals fans do have another treat waiting for them on the mound tonight. The clubs number two pitching prospect, and former prize of the organization, Jordan Zimmermann, will be making his 2010 debut after a disheartening Tommy John surgery in 2009.
Zimmermann rifled through the minors before making his MLB debut in the summer of 2009. Armed with a strong fastball and a variety of breaking pitches from the right side, he was quickly identified as someone who could make a difference in a big league rotation someday. However what makes Zimmermann so valuable to the Nationals is that while he had the possibility of being a strong number one starter someday, his potential as the Nats number two starter behind Stephen Strasburg takes the team from a good team to a one day great one.
So Nats fans, do not lament that you will not see Strasburg pitch tonight, instead celebrate the official return of an arm that is almost just as important to the clubs future success. He will never be the same pitcher as Strasburg, no, but for this team to be truly competitive it will take more than one super-arm. Zimmermann represents the second half of a dynamic-duo that could threaten to dominate the National League east for the next decade. He is a dynamic talent that was almost taken from us with an arm injury one year ago, but thanks to a magical surgery that has saved so many other pitchers, will be back just as good as he was the year before.
Tonight may not be the night many envisioned, but it is still a celebration of our future. Tonight two new pieces of the puzzle will at the park, and we will be that much closer to October.