It has been a possibility for weeks, but not one the Nationals have really acknowledged. They need to shut down ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg at some point this season. What that innings or pitch-count cap is, exactly, no one has said – though it’s believed to be around 160 or 170 innings.
But while general manager Mike Rizzo has said since spring training that he wouldn’t mess around much with Strasburg’s schedule, there was always one way to extend his season with minimal impact – start him five days after the All-Star game to maximize his starts in the second half. For the first time this season, manager Davey Johnson is considering just that.
“[Strasburg], I may take him out farther and see where that puts me – if I put him at the back of the line,” Johnson said. “See where that brings him. It’s not a major thing. I wouldn’t be doing it because he needs the extra rest, but more to see where he ends up.”
Johnson said that he’ll monitor Strasburg and the work of Gio Gonzalez at the All-Star game in Kansas City next week. For Gonzalez, it’s his normal day to throw a bullpen session so his schedule doesn’t have to be altered any. But Johnson did say that Gonzalez won’t necessarily start the first game back from the All-Star break on July 13 in his hometown of Miami. He will still pitch during that four-game series, however.
Strasburg will pitch on July 6 against Colorado and get two days off before the break even starts. He conceivably could go until July 17 without a start. That’s 11 days off and buys the team some time as it prepares for a second-half pennant race.
Strasburg himself is over talking about his innings cap and said once again on Tuesday that no one in the organization has told him anything about it. He’ll simply continue to pitch until the Nats take the ball from him for good – though he won’t be happy about it even if he is still less than two years removed from Tommy John surgery.
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