The original plan called for Nats rookie pitcher Stephen Strasburg to skip a few days in between starts, take a long rest at the All-Star break and then pitch deep into September and finish the year. Pro sports teams reserve the right to change their minds, of course, and the front office has done so. We learned last week that Strasburg would push on until hitting his innings limit of about 160. On Friday afternoon manager Jim Riggleman confirmed that and said Strasburg would pitch the first game back from the All-Star break on July 16 at Florida.
There are a few reasons for it, according to Riggleman. The team didn’t feel like it was fair to the veteran players – Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham, Ivan Rodriguez etc. – to not start their best pitcher consistently. Plus, while the Nats aren’t really in a playoff race, they have no chance to fight back into one if Strasburg is routinely missing starts in July and August. Those September games won't mean much by then.
It doesn’t hurt that there are plenty of options in the organization to eat up Strasburg’s innings in September. Jordan Zimmermann has looked good so far rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and could be up early next month. Jason Marquis (elbow) should be back. Scott Olsen (shoulder) could return. Rosters also expand in September so some of the organization’s Triple-A pitchers — remember Shairon Martis (6-5, 3.75 ERA) — could get a spot start, too.
“We feel like we have a veteran group of everyday players,” Riggleman said. “These veteran guys they want to win ballgames. And I think if we don’t send out our best right there early the first two days then we’re sending the wrong message to our ballclub.”
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