Strasburg savors the moment

Beanballs,Sports,Brian McNally

His season has been over for three weeks now, but that didn’t stop Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg from enjoying himself during a raucous celebration at Nationals Park on Monday. He was all smiles on the infield after Nats players returned to the field to celebrate with a few thousand remaining fans. It was a moment he will cherish – even if his season ended far sooner than he wanted it to.

“This is my first chance to celebrate in my life for something like this and it’s awesome,” Strasburg said.

He was right in the middle of the celebration with his teammates back inside the clubhouse and was even seen dancing to the pounding music. He’d earned it. Strasburg’s contribution in 2012 was massive: 15 wins, a 3.16 ERA in 28 starts.

“Nothing makes me more happy than to see a guy like that that’s worked so hard and bounced back like that,” teammate Gio Gonzalez said. “And to give his team a chance, to go out there and give us 15 wins? You deserve to get champagne. In fact you deserve five bottles of Dom Perignon.”

There was a time when Strasburg wondered if he was letting his teammates down and worried they thought he hadn’t fought enough to stay in the rotation. But the simple fact is he had no choice. Washington general manager Mike Rizzo long ago decided – contender or nor – that his team would shut down Strasburg well before the playoffs. In the end he didn’t make it past a Sept. 7 start against the Miami Marlins.

“[Strasburg is] part of it, definitely. He frickin’ pitched his butt off this year,” rookie teammate Bryce Harper said. “It really sucked that he had to be shut down. But it’s okay. We got the crown, the N.L. East and hopefully we can get back down deep into October. And next year is going to be a lot of fun because he gets to throw the whole year.”

Strasburg didn’t need to be told any of this, his teammates insisted. As down as he was three weeks ago he knows what’s in front of him in 2013 and, more importantly, what his club can accomplish even without him this October.

“That guy knows that he’s the best. I know that he’s the best. The team knows he’s the best,” Gonzalez said. “He’s one of those guys that I know if he had the opportunity to pitch for us now he’d go out there and get us a “W”. When the fans are wearing your jersey even when you’re not playing that lets you know the kind of key person you are to this stadium and what you mean to this organization.”

Follow me on Twitter @bmcnally14

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