If the plan holds, Strasburg will be doing plenty of watching from the dugout soon. Image: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Strasburg Faces Ticking Clock


Stephen Strasburg has probably been talked about more for his upcoming innings limit than he has for the Cy Young-caliber season he has turned in for the Washington Nationals. Of course, this story doesn’t seem to be going away, but it looks like Strasburg is coming down to the stretch run of his 2012 season.

Nats manager Davey Johnson talked to Strasburg on the team flight leaving Miami last night, telling the right hander he has “a few more to go.” Washington GM Mike Rizzo has been adamant that once the innings limit has been reached (believed to be 180 inning), Strasburg will not pitch again this season, no matter where his club is in terms of post-season positioning. The Nationals currently hold a five game lead in the NL East.

“He might pitch 10 innings one game, or he might just go five,” Johnson said. “I asked Rizz, ‘Do you want me to hook him after three? Save some innings?”’
Johnson quickly added, in case there was any doubt, that such an early hook is not an option. He also ruled out sending Strasburg to the bullpen.
“And, no, I’m not going to drag it out and give him seven days between starts, either,” Johnson said.

I’ve written at length about my feelings on the innings limit. While I appreciate that Rizzo thinks he’s doing what’s best for the future of his star pitcher (and by extension, his team), the playoffs aren’t promised to anyone, ever. If you get a chance to make a run, you have to take it. A few years back, the Nationals became the first team since the mid-1970s to lose 100 games in consecutive seasons. All those losses landed the both Strasburg and Bryce Harper in the draft. Now the franchise is on the cusp of their first trip to the playoffs since the Montreal Expos lost the NLCS to the Dodgers in 1981.

But, unless Rizzo suddenly relents to the wishes of his ace right hander, the Nationals will voluntarily move ahead without their top gun. Can the Nats win it all without Strasburg? I suppose anything can happen in October and the best regular-season team doesn’t always win the World Series, but you’d have to think their chances would be greatly improved with one of the game’s best hurlers taking the ball twice in each series.

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