As the Stephen Strasburg September Shutdown story seizes space, more and more Nats fans and bored office workers have attempted to find a solution. Couldn’t the Nats space out the rotation? Couldn’t they make him their No. 5 starter? Couldn’t the team just give Strasburg a three-week August vacation? Couldn’t he fake an injury?
The wise, unconcerned set, led by Thomas Boswell, would tell you that changing a starter’s routine is not best practices, and that coming back from a break — whatever the cause — would require wasted rehab innings Also, they would tell you that the Nats likely won’t miss more than five Strasburg starts, and that the difference between four wins and three wins in those five games isn’t likely to matter.
Still, you will hear dozens more suggestions over the next few weeks, like the one recently offered by TBS’s John Smoltz to ESPN Radio’s Scott Van Pelt.
“Honestly, I know this is gonna sound . . . well, I’m a little bit different anyways,” Smoltz began. “I’d create my own little gap. I’d have a blister one day, maybe a hangnail the next start. You know, I think there’s ways to do it. And I get it — their statement is every game counts. Well, it does, but it doesn’t count as much as in September.
“You’re in your own division, you can either lengthen your gap or close the gap. And I just think that’s gonna be hard to explain to 23, 24 other players, why this guy is going to [not pitch].”
Maybe yes, maybe no. One thing that will likely help in the clubhouse is that Mike Rizzo has said the exact same thing on this matter in a league-record 432 consecutive interviews.
“We’re all on the same page with Stras’s situation,” Rizzo recently told MASN. “We’ve discussed it ad nauseam. We’ve been committed to it since Spring Training. I’m a stubborn guy. We thinks it’s best for the player and best for the franchise. We’re gonna do what’s best for the player.”
And truth be told, Smoltz didn’t really object to this strategy.
“Each party’s saying the right things,” he told Van Pelt. “Here’s my only take . . . I don’t know that they thought they’d be in this position. If you knew you were gonna be in this position, you start him in May and let him pitch the rest of the year.
“But by starting him in the regular season right at the start, you’ve boxed yourself in now that you’re in a [playoff] position, to try to explain why at the last part of the season you won’t have your best pitcher pitching, or one of your best....
“And I think that’s gonna be the tough task. I argue just space it out, even from this point on. That’s gonna be difficult because they’ve got a mandate, that’s come from the top. They’re gonna stick to it. They make the decisions. It’s gonna make for interesting conversation down the stretch.”
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