So, what are we to make of this Strasburg kid?

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Strasburg debut windup.jpgDrew had the live blog and the recap last night, perfectly capturing the “I can’t believe what I’m seeing” aspect of all of this. And it was spectacular. I’m still not sure I believed what I just saw. The Superman exists, and he’s a National.

Due to the injustice that is Major League Baseball’s blackout system — which seems to think that Columbus, Ohio is in the Pirates’ home territory despite the fact that the Pirates have never, ever broadcast a game here — I was stuck watching the game a couple of hours after it ended on MLB.tv’s archive. I was still impressed — hell, dumbfounded — despite knowing exactly what was coming. Plus I could fast forward when the Nats were batting, which was nice.

I had it in my head today to compare Strasburg’s debut to those of other power pitching studs like Roger Clemens, Tom Seaver, Doc Gooden and the like, but really there’s no point. Strasburg outshined them all. This morning we’re reaching for freaks of history like Karl Spooner and his 15 strikeout debut. Such a thing perfectly explains the singularity of Strasburg’s performance yet simultaneously fails to do it justice.

Indeed, most of the focus last night was on the fourteen strikeouts.  And they were amazing, in no small part because 12 of his victims went down swinging. But it was less his stat line than his stuff that had me groping for words.

The velocity was obviously incredible. The MASN gun had him topping 100 several times, and even if you assume that the TV gun reads a little hot, he was definitely bringing it.  He wasn’t losing it, either, what with his final strike of the game to Andy LaRoche registering at 98.  And the fact that his changeup — consistently in the low 90s — is faster than most guys’ fastballs is probably a crime against humanity.

But the movement was even more incredible. It’s no trick to throw hard if all you want to do is throw hard. We’ve seen Kyle Farnsworth light up a gun before, after all.  Strasburg’s stuff is not the same thing. It’s not even the same ballpark. Nick Steiner at The Hardball Times threw it up on a chart last night and the results are pretty astounding. The tail on his fastball(s) is otherworldly. The drop on his changeup — like, five inches — is the stuff of legend.

I probably need to stop now lest I use up my monthly supply of superlatives. The highlights are all over the place. Here are all 14 of his strikeouts.  Strap yourselves in people, because we’re taking off on one hell of a ride.

Joe Mauer reveals he’s had blurred vision since 2013 concussion

Joe Mauer
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After a decade as the best all-around catcher in baseball Joe Mauer suffered a concussion in August of 2013 that forced him to change positions and marked the end of his time as a great hitter.

Mauer was doing his usual thing at the time of the concussion, hitting .324 with a .404 on-base percentage and .880 OPS. Since returning from the brain injury he’s hit .270 with a .348 on-base percentage and .725 OPS while seeing his numbers decline across the board.

Mauer revealed today to Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that “lingering symptoms occasionally blurred his vision at the plate the past two seasons” and “he will experiment hitting with sunglasses for the first time to improve his pitch tracking” this season.

Here’s more from Murphy:

Bright sunshine sometimes triggered blurred vision that Mauer links to the concussion with which he was diagnosed in August 2013 after absorbing at least “two significant blows” from foul tips while he was still catching.

“I don’t want that to be kind of an excuse. If I’m out there, I’m out there. That’s just the way I am,” Mauer said. “There are times I’ve gone up to the plate and I just couldn’t pick up the ball. That’s part of the frustration because I’m trying to do everything I can to get back. It just takes time.”

There are more quotes along those same lines and Mauer’s numbers in night games were much better than his numbers in day games last season.

I live in Minnesota and it has been incredibly frustrating to see such a large (or at least vocal) segment of the Twins fan base treat Mauer’s steep decline as if it has nothing to do with the significant brain trauma he suffered. I’m hopeful that Mauer going public about literally struggling to see the baseball while at the plate will convince people to treat him more humanely, but that’s probably wishful thinking at this point.

What a shame, on every level.

Masahiro Tanaka can’t say for sure if he’ll be ready by Opening Day

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Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka said today that he “can’t say for sure” whether he’ll be ready for Opening Day.

Tanaka underwent arthroscopic surgery in late November to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. Tanaka threw off a bullpen mound Tuesday for the first time since undergoing a cleanup procedure on his right elbow last October and, while healthy, may be behind other pitchers.

Tanaka posted a 3.51 ERA and a 139/27 K/BB ratio across 154 innings last season. He also has a partially torn UCL he’s been pitching through for some time which is always something the Yankees have on their mind when it comes to schedules and workouts for their ace.

Denard Span, not Angel Pagan, will be Giants’ center fielder and leadoff hitter

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Making official what was assumed when the Giants signed Denard Span to a three-year, $31 million contract last month, manager Bruce Bochy announced that Span will start in center field and bat leadoff.

That means 34-year-old Angel Pagan, who’s been the Giants’ starting center fielder and primary leadoff hitter for the past four seasons, will slide to left field and bat further down in the lineup. About a month before the Span signing Bochy said Pagan would remain in the center fielder/leadoff role, but the situation obviously changed.

It’s a move that makes sense, because Span–if healthy following hip surgery–is a superior defensive center fielder with better on-base skills. And if Pagan doesn’t bounce back following a rough 2015 season then having him in left field will make it easier for the Giants to platoon him or bench him in favor of, say, Gregor Blanco or a bigger bat.

Pitchers to receive new visor-like protective headgear

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For the past few years MLB, the MLBPA and cap and helmet manufacturers have been working on various models of protective headgear for pitchers. Some of the models have been unworkable, some of them have not met the satisfaction of pitchers and others have, well, looked a little odd. At present the only pitcher who routinely wears any headgear is Alex Torres, who wears the bulky isoBLOX helmet.

Now, however, there is a new option. And, as you can see above it’s a bit different than what we’ve seen before. It’s more or less like a visor, which will have a nylon top on them to give a full cap-like appearance. The ear flaps will be lefty and righty-specific, given that righties are more likely to be hit on the right and lefties on the left given their follow-throughs.

The new caps will be given out to players this spring and, like the old ones, will be used or not used at the choice of the players. You can read more about the new helmet at ESPN’s Outside the Lines report.