WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 02: Sean Burnett #17 talks with pitching coach Steve McCatty #43 of the Washington Nationals in the dugout during a game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Nationals Park on September 2, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
• Sean Burnett Update: Left-hander Sean Burnett is scheduled to throw on Saturday after what will be a week off at that point spent resting an elbow injury that Nats' skipper Davey Johnson said the team thinks, "... is more like an inflamed nerve." Johnson told reporters he joked with the reliever, telling him, "You don't have any nerves."
"A nerve," the pitcher told the Nationals' manager. After posting a 1.99 ERA with seven walks (1.99 BB/9) and 32 Ks (6.06 K/9) in 31.2 IP in the first half of the season, the left-hander has struggled after the All-Star Break with a 3.32 ERA, three walks (1.42 BB/9) and 18 Ks (8.52 K/9) in 19.0 IP before he was shut down. Burnett told reporters earlier this week that he was pitching through pain but eventually decided that he was hurting the team more than helping. In the absence of the 29-year-old reliever, who Johnson said he was comfortable using against right or left-handers because of his sinker which "gets most right-handers out," the manager said he'd rely on Tom Gorzelanny, Ryan Mattheus and Drew Storen.
According to Johnson, Burnett's been dealing with the elbow issue for a while now. The left-hander will throw on Saturday, and if all goes well, he could be available by Monday for the series in New York. "It's not a muscle issue," Johnson said, "It's more of an inflamed nerve or something," which, "... I think was bothering him right before the [All-Star] Break and he brought it up after the Break and started getting some treatment on it. But he's been awfully durable."
• Strasburg's Attitude: On the latest edition of 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s The Mike Rizzo Show, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo told host Danny Rouhier that 24-year-old right-hander Stephen Strasburg was not happy with the Nats' decision to shut him down after two more starts, tomorrow's in the nation's capital and one more outing in New York next Wednesday. "He’s not happy with the decision," Rizzo admitted, "He thinks he can continue to contribute to the ball club and that type of thing. He expressed his opposition to it and we just tried to explain to him what our thinking was and gave him our rationale and at the end of the day I think he is accepting of our decision. He disagrees with it."
Davey Johnson was asked this afternoon if he thought the knowledge that he was making his last two starts of the season would have any affect on Strasburg, but he said he doubted it. "He kind of goes about his business the way [Bryce] Harper goes about his," Johnson explained, "He's all in. Every time he goes out he's committed to be the best he can be and probably puts that standard higher than I like [him] to. So I don't see him, going down to the last one or two, going at it any harder or any softer."
The Nats' GM stressed that Strasburg would remain a part of the team after his shutdown, telling 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Mr. Rouhier, "He’s going to be a terrific teammate going down the stretch and he’s going to be involved in everything we do. He’s going to have to contribute in other ways than pitching on the mound. He is going to have to contribute as being a great teammate and a supporter of the rest of the pitching staff."
• Zimmermann: Coming off a rough start last time out against St. Louis, Jordan Zimmermann's looking to rebound against the Chicago Cubs tonight. Davey Johnson told reporters this afternoon that when the right-hander has struggled and "been up in the zone and jumping," it's been after an extra day of rest, "... when he's stronger or felt too strong."
"That's part of the learning process," the Nats' manager explained, "when you do get that you still need to keep the same kind of rhythm and release and locate the ball. A pitcher doesn't feel the same way every time they go out every five days. Part of pitching up here [for] thirty-some starts, is being able when you don't have your explosive fastball that you locate it better or use the breaking ball more to set up the fastball. That's part of the learning process."
The 26-year-old right-hander has been so consistent thus far in his career, however, that he hasn't had to make those adjustments often. "He's had very little blips," Johnson said, '[Pitching coach Steve] McCatty can tell him that he's going to get in trouble when he jumps at the hitter and flies open, and the elbow drops down..." but it's something Zimmermann's going to have to learn to adjust to on the mound. Zimmermann makes his 28th start of 2012 tonight in the nation's capital. In 27 outings and 164.2 IP so far this season, the fourth-year starter is (9-8) with a 3.01 ERA, a 3.62 FIP, 33 BB (1.80 BB/9) and 122 Ks (6.67 K/9).
With a win tonight Zimmermann could become the third Nats' starter to reach double digit wins, something the Nats' manager said today would be impressive considering they had just one last season, John Lannan, who was (10-13). "To me that's huge," Johnson said, "When you consider last year that we had one. To have five? That's saying something. And maybe a 20-game winner?" Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler and Edwin Jackson all have nine wins with Strasburg (15) and Gio Gonzalez (18) already in double digits.