That Stephen Strasburg was going to pitch the Nationals’ regular season opener was a foregone conclusion by now, but getting Nationals Manager Davey Johnson to address anything beyond the present is no easy task. For weeks now, reporters have asked if he was ready to officially name an opening day starter, knowing it was a mere formality to place Strasburg atop the starting rotation for the second straight year.
Wednesday, after an off day, Johnson was in a giving mood and finally relented. “Why do you need to drag it out of me?” he asked reporters, seated in the home dugout. “You always are trying to get me to say something about two weeks ahead of time.”
Yes, he finally said, Strasburg will take the mound at Nationals Park on April 1 against the Miami Marlins.
“You drug it out of me,” he said to reporters, with a grin. “But this is the last time.”
Strasburg will take the mound for the first normal season of his career. Every season since he was drafted in 2009, Strasburg hasn’t been able to be just one of the guys on the team, a feeling he has long desired. First, it was all about the hype surrounding the super prospect. Then, it was the elbow injury and Tommy John surgery. And last season, Strasburg couldn’t escape the constant debate surrounding his innings limit.
“He’s just got great stuff,” Johnson said. “He’s very dedicated and works very hard. That’s a great honor. There’s a lot of great starters in my rotation. But I know that this is going to be easier this year.”