Stephen Strasburg, the college pitching sensation chosen by Washington as the first overall pick in the draft, said that playing for Tony Gwynn at San Diego State gave him a better understanding of what was required to be a professional.

Strasburg said he learned "just watching how he goes about his business, with all the autographs he has to sign, all the press conferences, all the guest-speaking lunches."

"All that stuff kind of wears on you at times, but you have to take it in stride," the righthander said during his first national teleconference the other day. "You have to remember that this is a game you love and those people have supported you doing what you love."

Gwynn was inducted into the Hall of Fame after a career in which he surpassed 3,000 hits. If Strasburg, 20, can model himself after Gwynn, he'll already be ahead of many ballplayers.

Strasburg has until Aug. 17 to sign with the Nationals. His agent, Scott Boras, who is believed to be asking for about $50 million, sounded confident that a deal would get done.

Growing pains

Despite the anticipation of Strasburg's arrival in the majors, it's rare for a top pitching prospect to make a transition to the big leagues without experiencing early bumps.

Just ask Atlanta Braves righthander Tommy Hanson. The most heralded young pitcher in the league, the hard-throwing Hanson allowed six earned runs in six innings in his recent debut, against Milwaukee.

"That was a huge learning experience for me," Hanson, 22, said on "Maybe I was thinking too much instead of keeping it simple and going with my normal game plan."

Nolan Ryan said young power pitchers such as Hanson have a bigger margin for error when they start out.

"If you take a control pitcher who has confidence in his ability to throw to spots and make pitches, if he's mature enough and confident enough, it's not as big of a transition," Ryan said.


MLB sent a reminder to the Los Angeles Dodgers that outfielder Manny Ramirez was not permitted in the clubhouse during media-access periods for the remainder of his 50-game suspension for use of a banned substance. During Tuesday's visit, Ramirez told reporters: "I didn't kill nobody. I didn't rape nobody, so that's it. I'm just going to come to play the game.". . . Atlanta first baseman Barbaro Canizares made his major-league debut yesterday after he was called up from the minors. He was 1 for 4, with a single and two strikeouts.