Stephen Strasburg will make two more starts, his final one on Sept. 12 in New York against the New York Mets, before he is shut down for the season, Nationals Manager Davey Johnson said following the right-hander’s start on Sunday.
In his first full season back from Tommy John Surgery, Strasburg, 24, has thrown 156 1/3 innings, including six dominant innings on Sunday. He struck out nine batters, allowed no runs, two hits and walked one batter.
Johnson said that Strasburg’s end could depend on how many innings he throws in each of the final starts. But this is the most definite end announced by the Nationals to date. Strasburg is averaging about 5 2/3 innings per start and with two more starts he would finish the season at about 168 innings over 29 starts.
His last home start would be Sept. 7 against the Miami Marlins.
Strasburg had Tommy John surgery to replace the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow September 2010 and the Nationals have said since before this season that the right-hander, a younger pitcher who has thrown more than he ever has in a season this year, would be held to an innings limit.
“We had our parameters in place at the beginning of the season, we had our philosophies and our protocols,” Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo said following Sunday’s game, without giving a specific limit. “That seems like the right number of innings to end his season.”
Strasburg offered a muted reaction to the announcement, possibly a little shaken by the news. ”I’m just focused on the next start,” he said. “That’s all I can really focus on right now. But we’re going to have to have a sit down and talk here soon.”
Rizzo said that he hasn’t yet had a sit-down with Strasburg about when the end will occur. But he has long said that the final decision on when to shut down Strasburg was up to him, based on medical advice, and that he didn’t need to consult with the pitcher on when the end would occur.
“I don’t think he’s going to fight me on it, I think he’s going to be unhappy about it, I know he’ll be unhappy about it,” Rizzo said. “He is an ultimate competitor, but we’ve taken that out of his hands. This is a developmental decision and it ultimately falls on the doorstep of the general manager and we’ve made it. We’ve made it five months ago and we’re going to stick to it.”
Asked if it was hard to block out all the attention surrounding his impending end to the season, Strasburg was defiant again: ”Not really. I just don’t have anything to say. I’m in it with these guys and we still got a long way to go but I’m going to fight with them ’til the end.”
The announcement was met by some teammates the same way they have handled it much of the season: they knew it was coming and they will handle it much like they have with other significant players who missed time because of injuries.
“It’s a decision they’ve made,” shortstop Ian Desmond said. “It’s obviously an educated decision and we know that we’re a good ball club with solid pitching top to bottom and we feel like we can win with anybody on the mound.”
Added Johnson: “We’ve faced adversity all year long. We didn’t have our cleanup hitter, we didn’t have our closer. We lost our starting catcher, we lost Jayson Werth for two months. That’s just the way this year’s been. … We’ve been through it. We had Jordan Zimmermann shut down, and last year at this time he was throwing as good arguably as anyone on the staff. We survived.”