Nationals' phenom looks ready for the bigs

The Washington Nationals' Stephen Strasburg, the first player selected in last year's draft and, by all accounts, a phenom, looks more than ready to make his major-league debut next week.

In his final minor-league start Thursday, the Nationals' top pitching prospect allowed no runs, three hits and one walk through five innings for the triple-A Syracuse Chiefs against the Buffalo Bisons. And he closed with a flourish, preserving a 3-0 lead by getting International League batting leader Jesus Feliciano to ground out to second with runners at second and third and two out in the fifth.

That was all for Strasburg, who finished with a record of 4-1, and a 1.08 ERA. His next start is set for Tuesday against the plucky Pittsburgh Pirates. Good luck to them.

Mesa not giving up on its Cubbies

Officials in Mesa, Ariz., anxious to keep the Chicago Cubs from moving their spring training operation to Florida, says it's willing to pony up some bucks to help the team build a new spring-training complex.

Officials say cornerstones of the $84 million plan announced Thursday include increasing the bed tax, city money from special funds, and selling some city-owned rural property in Pinal County. The voters, however, would be asked in November to authorize the spending and approve increasing the bed tax to 5 percent from the current 3 percent.

For their part, the Cubs are grateful, if uncommitted.

"The Cubs are appreciative of Mesa's efforts and look forward to learning more about the details of the latest funding proposal," said team spokesman Peter Chase. He declined to elaborate.

Trouble in 'Frisco

Matt Cain, one of the hottest pitchers in the major leagues, needed a few veterans to snap out of deep freezes Wednesday night to prevent getting swept by the Colorado Rockies. Although he pitched eight outstanding innings, it took some timely hitting from Aaron Rowand and Bengie Molina to beat the Rockies, 4-1, at AT&T Park.

Their hits, however, marked just the second time this season that Rowand and Molina, two of the club's core players, knocked in runs in the same game.

"We want to help the team, man," said Molina, whose hit snapped an 0-for-17 slump and accounted for just his second RBI since May 5. "Sometimes people don't understand. They don't know if you're banged-up. But believe me, we're not trying to hurt the team in any manner."

What did Rowand say?

"I'll just say it simply," the former Phillie said. "I could stand to have a few balls drop. I'm glad that one did.

"More than anything, I feel good for Matty," he continued. "He threw the heck out of the ball, and he got a few runs to win."