Countdown to shutdown for Nationals' Strasburg

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Photo - Alex Brandon/AP
Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg likely will make his next three scheduled starts but faces uncertainty the rest of the season.
Alex Brandon/AP Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg likely will make his next three scheduled starts but faces uncertainty the rest of the season.
Sports,MLB,Nationals,Brian McNally

The end is in sight now for Stephen Strasburg.

An entire year of speculation about when the Nationals would shut down their ace right-hander boils down to the next few weeks. The team has said a specific innings limit won't be the sole criteria used to determine his final start. How he's throwing, how his arm feels and the number of stressful innings pitched all count, too. General manager Mike Rizzo only has said that it is his decision alone.

Strasburg has pitched 1451Ú3 innings this season. He will accrue a few more, the team hopes, in Tuesday's start against the Miami Marlins. He then likely will make his next scheduled starts Sept. 2 against the St. Louis Cardinals and Sept. 7 against the Marlins again.

But it's up to Rizzo whether Strasburg takes the ball against the New York Mets on Sept. 12 or on Sept. 18 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. At 15-5 and with a 2.85 ERA, Strasburg has done his part to help Washington try to win its first National League East title since moving to the District in 2005. Now he is simply tired of talking about it, tired of hearing about it. All Strasburg can do is pitch the games left to him and then put on a jacket and watch his teammates do the rest themselves.

"It's funny. Nobody talks to me personally about it, so obviously I can either scour the Internet or watch all the stuff being said on TV or I can just keep pitching and watch the Golf Channel, I guess," Strasburg joked after his last start against the Atlanta Braves on Aug. 21.

That's a rare light side shown by a player whose intensity level can be overwhelming at times. Strasburg has said he doesn't want to sit down. His teammates aren't happy about it. But his agent, Scott Boras, supports what the Nats are doing for his young client, still just 24 and almost two years removed from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Even noted surgeon James Andrews weighed in last week on ESPN Radio with his support for what the organization is doing -- hurting its chances at a title this season to prop open a window in which it can contend for several years with Strasburg healthy.

Washington's management has received endless criticism for it, and that only has intensified in recent weeks. Even among critics who say they understand the team's plight there is consternation that it wasn't more creative in extending his year.

"But we had discussions in the spring, the staff, the front office," manager Davey Johnson said. "Everybody was trying to figure out, 'Well, we need to have him there at the end,' and all this great thinking. But I have a little experience dealing with pitchers and their workload and their scheduling. And the one thing that would have been the most detrimental to his health -- to any pitcher's health -- is if you vary from what starts from day one of spring training."

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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