WASHINGTON -- Stephen Strasburg watched the fireworks explode over Nationals Park during his over-the-top welcome to the nation's capital. Amid the hoopla, he was asked what will happen when he pitches his first shutout at the stadium.
His answer: "Maybe a flyby of Air Force One or something like that."
The Nationals keep saying Strasburg isn't meant to be the savior of the franchise, but they certainly gave him that treatment on Friday.
Four days after awarding him a record-breaking contract for a draft pick, the team set up a raised platform near third base for an on-field news conference attended by anyone willing to show up five hours early for the evening's game against the Milwaukee Brewers.
A few hundred fans took the bait, no doubt motivated by the offer of $1 tickets. Maybe there would have been more if it weren't for the stifling August weather that produced a heat index of 100 degrees while Strasburg was on the stage, his dark trousers hardly the most comfortable outfit choice for the occasion.
"This is amazing. To play at San Diego State, where we didn't really get many fans until this year -- this is the amount of fans that we would get at one of our Friday night games," Strasburg said.
Strasburg was presented a No. 37 Nationals jersey by third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, but he won't be wearing it in a game anytime soon.
Because he's essentially been idle since the end of the college season in the spring, the club will send him to the Florida to build up his arm over the next four or five weeks. He'll then pitch in the Florida Instructional League and the Arizona Fall League, with his major league debut expected next year.
"The big things is not to rush things," Strasburg said. "It's their decision, and I understand it completely."
The No. 1 overall draft pick agreed Monday night to a contract that guarantees him $15.1 million over four years. It was a welcome bit of news for a team on pace for a second consecutive 100-loss season; another boost came Wednesday night with the news that Mike Rizzo had been given the general manager job after filling the role on an interim basis for most of the year.