After holding his comments all season, the Nationals’ ace reacted angrily to the Nationals’ decision to shut him down Saturday, 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 about 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 let Strasburg make one more start on Wednesday in New York. But after Strasburg allowed the Miami Marlins five runs in three innings Friday night, the Nationals decided to end his season immediately. Johnson believed Strasburg had become distracted by the immense media coverage of the innings limit the Nationals imposed on him at the start of the season, a restriction put in place to protect Strasburg as he pitches his first full season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in September 2010.
“The media hype on this thing has been unbelievable,” Johnson said. “I feel it’s as hard for him as it would be anybody to get mentally, totally committed in the ballgame. And he’s reached his innings limit. So we can get past this and talk about other things for a change.”
Johnson consulted with General Manager Mike Rizzo and pitching coach Steve McCatty late Friday night. They all believed Strasburg had lost focus because of the impending shutdown. Rizzo planned before spring training began to limit Strasburg’s innings to roughly 160. The question was precisely when, and his performance Friday convinced the Nationals the time is now.
“After yesterday’s start, we just figured that mentally and physically, Stephen looked like he was fatigued,” Rizzo said. “We decided, what’s the difference of 1591
3 innings or 163 or 164 or 1651
“When you put two and two together with the parameters we had in place already, it was a fairly easy decision to say, let’s pull the plug after today instead of having one more start and six more innings.”
At around 10:45 a.m., Johnson sidled up to Strasburg in the Nationals’ training room. “I wasn’t going to drag it out,” Johnson said. “I’m just taking the ball out of his hands.”