Yes, their best hitters are injured, and Mark DeRosa is batting like negative .700, and the starters can’t possibly maintain this pace, and the closer is out for two more months.
But nine games over .500 is nine games over .500. And with the pitching staff they have, the Nats would have to have a fairly stunning collapse not to at least be in the vicinity of a playoff chase come September.
Which led Jim Bowden, of all people, to raise an interesting point: should the Nats start occasionally skipping Stephen Strasburg’s turn in the rotation, and limiting him to five or six innings at a go, so that he would be available in the playoffs.
“This is a team that will be in a pennant race, that will have a chance to win the division or the wild card,” Bowden told Mike Rizzo during a recent appearance on MLB Network Radio’s Inside Pitch. “How important is it for Davey Johnson to manage him accordingly...so that when you get to the playoffs and World Series, you still have a chance of putting him out there in game 1 and maybe game 7?”
The answer was sort of wet blankety, though.
“We’ve got a plan in place,” Rizzo responded. “We’ve taken a lot of time and a lot of painstaking days going over the calendar and going over the schedule and that type of thing. What we don’t want to do is we don’t want to interrupt his rotation. He’s very comfortable. He’s a very monitored person. He likes everything in its place, and we don’t really want to jumble up his schedule and get him out of his rotation and out of his routine.
“So Davey’s gonna monitor it, we’re gonna monitor each and every start, we’re gonna monitor how we utilize him. But Davey’s under no instructions of a pitch count, a pitch limit, an innings limit per game. We’re gonna utilize him, and when we feel that he’s reached his limit and he’s had enough, we’re just gonna shut him down.”
Bowden’s co-host then tried to make sure that this was the plan regardless of a playoff push, and Rizzo agreed.
Earlier this week, Kevin Sheehan of ESPN 980 tried to find out exactly what that limit was.
“He’s not on a pitch limit for the year,” Rizzo said. “We’re going to control his innings at the end, and when I feel he’s had enough innings, we’re gonna shut him down. So there’s no limit per game for Davey, there’s no innings limit per game for Davey. We’re gonna treat him like a normal, young 23-year old starter. And when I feel he’s had enough innings and enough pitches thrown, then I’m gonna pull the plug on him and we’re gonna rest him, like we did with Jordan Zimmermann.”
Sheehan then asked whether Strasburg would be allowed to waste any pitches or innings on a potential All-Star game appearance.
“In your hypothetical — which I hope comes true, that he’s an All-Star pitcher — if he were to receive the honor of being an All-Star pitcher chosen by the all star manager and he was on regular rest to pitch, I would certainly endorse him pitching in the All-Star game,” Rizzo said.