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Aztecs’ ace in limbo

Unbeaten Strasburg, the projected No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft, may or may not start today.

May 28, 2009|By Barry Faulkner

IRVINE — Will he or won’t he?

San Diego State Coach Tony Gwynn was adamant about not revealing whether junior pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg would start today against Virginia in the first game of the Irvine Regional at 4 p.m. at Anteater Ballpark.

But he might have inadvertently done just that Thursday after the Aztecs’ brief workout at UCI.

After showing some frustration with media inquiries about whether Strasburg — the projected No. 1 pick in the June 9 major league draft who is 13-0 with a 1.24 earned-run average and has 180 strikeouts in 102 innings this season — would get the opening-game start or be held until Saturday, Gwynn might have slipped when talking about Strasburg’s pitching prowess.

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“He does what he has to do,” Gwynn said of the hard-throwing, 6-foot-5, 220-pound right-hander who has been called the best pitching prospect ever. His fastball has been clocked at more than 100 mph.

“And I’m sure [today at 4 p.m. against Virginia] is going to bring a different kind of challenge, because we really don’t know much about [the Cavaliers] other than what we see on their website and the scouting report,” Gwynn said. “But I’m sure [Strasburg] is going to go with his strengths, though he’ll be very aware of what the hitters are trying to do.”

For his part, Strasburg, who is being advised by Newport Beach super agent Scott Boras, said he was unaware of when he would pitch.

“It doesn’t really bother me,” said Strasburg, who has won his last nine starts with an 0.97 ERA and is 8-0 in games away from home with a 1.07 ERA this season. “They tell me to pitch; I’m going to pitch.”

Strasburg, who threw a no-hitter with 17 strikeouts against Air Force on May 8, and had 23 strikeouts against Utah in a 2008 game, has helped lead the Aztecs (40-21) to their first NCAA Regional appearance in 18 seasons.

When asked about the teams he might face in this regional, including top-ranked UCI (43-13) and defending national champion Fresno State (32-28), who square off tonight at 8, he appeared anything but intimidated.

“It’s a good challenge, but it’s a good challenge for them too,” He said. “Because when they see San Diego State, from the Mountain West Conference, they might not think much of us.

“But we’ve played good teams all year, so we’re up for anything.”

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