Down on the farm, that buzz sounds like thunder

Both things were bound to happen soon.

Now that Stephen Strasburg, the No. 1 pick in last year's draft, has finally given up an earned run in triple A, his debut date in the majors could be firming up. relays unconfirmed reports that he will pitch for the Nationals against the Cincinnati Reds on June 4. The Washington Post is withholding judgment but points out that his last scheduled start, on Saturday, would leave exactly the required five days of rest before then, making that date appear more likely.

His huge star potential has generated near-hysteria in Washington, a town starved for marquee titans - aside from the Caps' Alexander Ovechkin - that is also going gaga over visions of Kentucky point guard phenom John Wall in a Wizards uniform.

Strasburg had been 3-0 since moving up to Syracuse. Over 181/2 innings, he had allowed only four hits while walking four and striking out 22. Those 0.00 goose eggs in his ERA were listed as an average but were really more like a raw number, loosely translated as zilcho.

Monday night, he gave up five hits and one earned run in five innings against Toledo. This brings his ERA in triple A all the way up to - gasp - 0.39. That's not enough to kill their buzz - or even take the edge off it.

The case of the purloined NL West lead

We all know the Phils have five players on track to play in the All-Star Game after the first round of fan voting.

But put this in your Sherlock Holmes pipe: How does a team that not only has not a single player so positioned but none in the top five at any position (or 15 for combined outfielders), how does this object-of-pity turkey rate the NL West lead (as of Tuesday)? If you think larceny must be involved somehow, you're dead right - bag larceny.

"We talked about that in spring training," manager Bud Black told " . . . Speed has come back in vogue, both offensively and defensively."

The Padres led the majors going into Tuesday night with 52 stolen bases. Only four teams had 45 or more.

Their competitors in the NL West have taken notice.

"It's not necessarily the speed guys; they have everybody else stealing, too," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "That's evidence of creating a stir. Once they get through the middle of that batting order, they're going to have to create something."

In other words: Keep those bags nailed down out there in the Wild West.


The Pirates recalled Neil Walker from triple-A Indianapolis to replace first baseman Steve Pearce, who went on the 15-day DL with a sprained right ankle. . . . The Nats released reliever Brian Bruney and called up catcher Carlos Maldonado from Syracuse.