Nationals set to promote Stephen Strasburg from Double-A to Triple-A

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Stephen Strasburg will make his final Double-A start tomorrow, with a Nationals source telling MLB.com’s Bill Ladson that the 21-year-old phenom will be promoted to Triple-A following the game.
Strasburg has more than earned the promotion by absolutely toying with Double-A hitters, going 3-0 with a 0.52 ERA, .115 opponents’ batting average, and 23/3 K/BB ratio in four starts. He’ll be pitted against a few more veterans in the International League, but as general manager Mike Rizzo admitted earlier this week Triple-A is ultimately little more than a holding pen until the Nationals are ready to call him up.

As he progresses, he’s going to go to [Triple-A] Syracuse and is going to pitch there until we deem he is ready to go to the next level. It’s reasonable to assume he is going to be in Syracuse sometime soon. He is doing everything we thought he would do and more. He seems to get better and better and stronger and stronger each start.

With the Nationals surprisingly above .500 and Strasburg’s service time nearly suppressed long enough to delay free agency, he seems likely to spend just a month or so at Triple-A. He’ll be limited to about 85 pitches in his final Double-A outing tomorrow, so stretching him out to 100-plus pitches at Triple-A will be one of the final steps before the Strasburg era begins in Washington.

MLB to crack down on sign stealing

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We’ve had a couple of notable incidents of sign stealing in Major League Baseball over the past couple of years. Most famously, the Red Sox were found to be using Apple Watches of all things to relay signs spied via video feed. Sports Illustrated reported yesterday that there have been other less-publicized and unpublicized incidents as well, mostly with in-house TV cameras — as opposed to network TV cameras — stationed in the outfield and trained on catchers, for the specific purpose of stealing signs.

As such, SI reports, Major League Baseball is cracking down beginning this year. Within the next couple weeks an already-drafted and circulated rule will take effect which will (a) ban in-house outfield cameras from foul pole to foul pole; (b) will limit live broadcasts available to teams to the team’s replay official only, and the replay official will be watched by a league official to keep them from relaying signs to the team; and (c) other TV monitors that are available to the clubs will be on an eight-second delay to prevent real-time sign stealing. There will likewise be limits on TV monitors showing the game feed in certain places like tunnels and clubhouses.

Penalties for violation of the rules will include the forfeiting of draft picks and/or international spending money. General managers will have to sign a document in which they swear they know of know sign-stealing schemes.

As was the case when the Apple Watch incident came up, there will not be any new rules regarding old fashioned sign stealing by runners on second base or what have you, as that is viewed as part of the game. Only the technology-aided sign stealing that has become more prominent in recent years — but which has, of course, existed in other forms for a very, very long time — is subject to the crackdown.

While gamesmanship of one form or another has always been part of baseball, the current wave of sign-stealing is seen as a pace-of-play issue just as much as a fairness issue. Because of the actual sign-stealing — and because of paranoia that any opponent could be stealing signs — clubs have gone to far more elaborate and constantly changing sign protocols. This requires mound meetings and pitchers coming off the rubber in order to re-start the increasingly complex series of signs from dugout to catcher and from catcher to pitcher.

Now, presumably, with these new rules coming online, teams will figure out a new way to cheat. It’s baseball, after all. It’s in their DNA.