La Velle Neal's Sunday Insider: Washington has hand on stop button with Strasburg

The Nationals are having a historic season, but that won't keep them from soon shutting down ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg.


Washington pitcher Stephen Strasburg, two years removed from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery, is 14-5 this season with a 2.91 ERA and 173 strikeouts in 139 1/3 innings.

Photo: Carolyn Kaster, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The Nationals are rolling with the best record in the major leagues, and Washington is only weeks away from playing host to its first playoff game since 1933.

But righthander Stephen Strasburg will be a spectator and not a participator, if the Nationals stick to the plan they had even before he was injured in 2010.

Strasburg once was jokingly referred to in this space as the Optimus Prime of pitching prospects when he was at San Diego State. But he is all that. The man throws fastballs at 100 miles per hour and a changeup that's faster (90 mph) than Carl Pavano's fastball.

Strasburg is 14-5 with a 2.91 ERA and 173 strikeouts in 139 1/3 innings and is everything you want in an ace.

Strasburg also is coming off Tommy John surgery two seasons ago. And teams have been cautious with pitchers in their first full seasons back from elbow reconstruction surgery.

Strasburg came back last season and threw 44 innings between the majors and minors. The Nationals warned back then that he would be shut down sometime during the 2012 season, perhaps between 160 and 180 innings, but an exact number never has been given. It will be based on how the Nationals view Strasburg's velocity, quality of pitches, stressful innings, etc. They planned to watch his innings his first few years in the majors, anyway.

The Strasburg Shutdown is coming. His Nationals teammates are bracing for it. Fans are stressing out. In a radio interview on ESPN last week, former Atlanta Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone suggested Strasburg find a way out of Washington if the ball is taken out of his hands for the postseason.

You never know when you get another chance at a title. That's the reason for the uproar.

The Nationals are ignoring it all.

Washington General Manager Mike Rizzo is a longtime talent evaluator who worked with the White Sox and Red Sox before helping the Diamondbacks get off the ground in 1998, and he was the first hire by the Lerner family when they took over the Nationals in 2006. Rizzo is very confident.

The research the Nationals have done and the advice they have sought show it's dangerous to give a big workload to a pitcher coming back from Tommy John surgery. No one is sure of how much is too much, but teams are warned to proceed with caution, and that's what Rizzo will do.

How about putting Strasburg in the bullpen? Have him take a month off? Save those innings for October?

Nope. Rizzo wanted Strasburg to have a consistent season. The young man's career will not be put in jeopardy in order to chase one championship.

You might not agree with the decision, but it's one the Nationals have arrived at after considerable thought and research.

  • related content

  • Sunday Insider: Central Intelligence

    Saturday August 18, 2012

    Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera had a pretty good week -- at the Twins' expense.

  • Sunday Insider: The 3-2 pitch

    Saturday August 18, 2012

    • The league should strip Melky Cabrera of the NL batting title if he finishes first. He cheated and it would be a tainted crown.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Washington 0
Pittsburgh 7 FINAL
Detroit 3
Miami 3 FINAL
St. Louis 2
Boston - WP: K. Couch 11 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: C. Reavis 8
NY Yankees - LP: M. Tanaka 1 FINAL
Minnesota - WP: T. Milone 3
Tampa Bay 4 FINAL
Baltimore 3
Philadelphia 6 FINAL
Toronto 10
Chicago Cubs 15 FINAL
Texas 10
Cincinnati - WP: M. Lorenzen 10 FINAL
Milwaukee - LP: M. Fiers 4
Colorado 3 FINAL
San Francisco 4
Chicago WSox 2 FINAL
Los Angeles 1
Seattle 6 FINAL
Cleveland 8
Oakland - WP: J. Fuller 13 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: B. Loconsole 10
Texas 7 FINAL
Arizona 8
Houston 8 FINAL
Atlanta 5
Kansas City 4 FINAL
San Diego 1
Atlanta 95 FINAL
Detroit 105
Indiana 106 FINAL
Brooklyn 111
San Antonio 95 FINAL
Miami 81
Golden State 110 FINAL
LA Clippers 106
New Jersey 2 FINAL(OT)
Columbus 3
Carolina 2 FINAL
Washington 4
Florida 2 FINAL
Boston 3
Ottawa 2 FINAL(SO)
Detroit 1
Tampa Bay 1 FINAL
Toronto 3
NY Rangers 3 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Vancouver 5 FINAL(SO)
Nashville 4
UT Martin 66 FINAL
Evansville 79
Miami-Florida 60 FINAL
Temple 57
Northern Ariz 68
Stanford 67 FINAL
Old Dominion 60
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: What are you following most closely right now?

Weekly Question