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Sports networks hope for phenomenal ratings from Stephen Strasburg

Strasburg Stephen Strasburg is arguably the most hyped pitching prospect in baseball in this young century, and cable is rushing to take advantage.

MLB Network already announced plans to present the 21-year-old Strasburg’s major league debut with the Washington Nationals, scheduled for Tuesday against Pittsburgh, with Bob Costas handling play-by-play. Now, Versus says it will broadcast what figures to be Strasburg’s final minor-league appearance, pitching for Syracuse against Buffalo on Thursday live at 10 a.m. Pacific. The International League contest will be the first pro baseball game ever broadcast by Versus (which will rebroadcast it at 4 p.m.)

Strasburg, who was guaranteed $15.1 million through 2012 after being drafted out of San Diego State in June, has a 1.43 ERA in 50 1/3 minor-league innings this season with 60 strikeouts. His fastball has been clocked as high as 103 mph, and you can bet the radar gun will be a big focus of viewers Thursday and next week.

While waiting for Strasburg to take the mound, Versus will settle for a little thing called the Stanley Cup. Trading off coverage with NBC, Versus has tonight’s Game 3 of the NHL’s championship series between Chicago and host Philadelphia at 5 p.m. Pacific.

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