After holding his comments all season, Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg reacted angrily to the Nationals’ decision to shut him down today, saying he feels fine physically and he wants to keep pitching.
“I don’t know if I’m ever going to accept it, to be honest,” Strasburg said. “It’s something that I’m not happy about at all. That’s not why I play the game. I play the game to be a good teammate and win. You don’t grow up dreaming out playing in the big leagues to get shut down when the games start to matter. It’s going to be a tough one to swallow.
“All I can do is be the best teammate possible for these guys. I think everybody overlooks all the great contributions that we’ve had this year. I know they’re going to keep going that way, and I’m going to do everything in my power to support them.”
The Nationals had planned to give Strasburg one more start, but after he allowed the Marlins five runs in three innings Friday, the Nationals decided to end his season now.
“I thought I had another start,” Strasburg said. “It was pretty shocking. I’m not too happy about it. I want to keep pitching out there. As of right now, I think they’ve got some world-renowned doctors. One of them, Dr. [Lewis] Yocum, he resurrected my career. I’ve got to listen to him and I’ve got to trust him.”
Johnson, pitching coach Steve McCatty and General Manager Mike Rizzo believed the endless media coverage and opining had worn down Strasburg. Though he tried to avoid the coverage, Strasburg admitted it affected him.
“It bothered me a lot longer than” the past few starts, Strasburg said. “When everybody talks about it and that’s all you hear, it’s hard not to let it bother you. I was doing everything in my power this whole year trying to help this team win some games. I felt like for the most part, I accomplished that. It is what it is. It sucks. I just got to move forward. I got to be here for this team now.”
While Strasburg spoke with reporters in the Nationals’ clubhouse Saturday evening, he grew testy at times, his emotions still raw. One reporter asked if he had the letter to him Jim Kaat had written on MLB.com, which, asininely, implored Strasburg to pitch against the team’s wishes.
“Who cares about that?” Strasburg said. “Everybody’s got something to say.”
Another reporter asked Strasburg how he would assess his season, mentioning his 15-6 record.
“You tell me,” Strasburg said. “Does that sound pretty good? Does that sound pretty good? Ok.”
Strasburg said he did try to lobby for more innings, to keep going, but the Nationals would not budge.
“I talked to them about it,” he said. “They seemed pretty firm. It’s not about me. It’s not about one player. The best thing I can do right and be the best teammate I can.”
The Nationals believe Strasburg has shown signs of fatigue in recent starts, that the finish on his breaking ball and “hop” on his fastball is lacking. Strasburg maintained he feels healthy enough to pitch.
“I feel physically great. That’s the thing,” Strasburg said. “But I think, it’s not just about one player. They want me to be here for many years to come. It’s an unfortunate situation. It’s a lot harder decision because we’ve won this year. I don’t think anybody would be talking about it if we were just finishing out the year in September. But I want to be here for the long haul, and I want to be a part of this for many years to come.”
As the Nationals turned themselves into a juggernaut this summer, Strasburg blocked from his mind the notion he would be disconnected from it. Strasburg knew the Nationals planned to end his season. But he was sure something would happen, they would change their mind, and he would pitch. By Saturday evening, he could only face the cold, cruel reality.
“The easiest way of dealing with it was I just looked the other way,” Strasburg said. “I didn’t really worry about. I was always thinking things were going to change. There’s always going to be something that would change, and I would get the opportunity. But this is a decision they made well before the start of the year. I play for the Washington Nationals. I play to help this team win games. I’m not the one making the calls.”