WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 05: Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals pitches against the Miami Marlins at Nationals Park on August 5, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
24-year-old right-hander Stephen Strasburg is (6-3) in 13 home starts this season with a 3.03 ERA, 3.02 FIP, 16 BB (1.94 BB/9) and 86 Ks (10.41 K/9) in 74.1 IP in Nationals Park. The '09 no.1 overall pick will make his final start in the nation's capital tonight. After the last outing in D.C., which saw him give him up two hits and walk in 6.0 scoreless against St. Louis in which he struck out nine, Nats' skipper Davey Johnson told reporters that Strasburg would make two more starts this year, tonight against Miami and then one more in New York next Wednesday before he's shut down for the year. Strasburg told reporters after that outing that he wasn't focused on the impending shutdown.
"I'm just focused on the next start," Strasburg said, "That's all I can really focus on right now, but we're going to have to sit down and talk here soon." The sitdown came earlier this week. Johnson, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo and Nats' pitching coach Steve McCatty met with the pitcher to explain their thinking to Strasburg. "Well," Johnson told reporters including the Washington Post's James Wagner after the meeting, "He hates McCatty more than he did before the meeting. And me. And Rizzo."
On Wednesday on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s The Mike Rizzo Show, the Nats' GM admitted that Strasburg wasn't happy with the explanations he was given...
"He’s not happy with the decision," Rizzo said, "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." Rizzo wouldn't go into detail about how the Nationals made the decision, telling the 106.7 the FAN in D.C. hosts, "I think we’ve expressed our information to the people that we needed to express it to and we’ll keep that information in house."
"We just asked Stephen Strasburg and other people to trust that we are making the right decision and that this decision hasn’t come lightly," Rizzo explained, "It’s come with a lot of scientific information and medical information and baseball development information, so we’ve asked a lot of experts and we’ve followed consistently the plan that we’ve had in place here since I have taken over as general manager.
Davey Johnson was asked on Thursday what he expected from Strasburg in his final two starts. The Nats' manager said he expects more of what he's seen from Strasburg all season. "He kind of goes about his business the way [Bryce] Harper goes about his," Johnson told reporters, "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."
In his last six starts, including one against the Marlins he faces tonight which saw him surrender nine hits and seven runs, five earned in 5.0 IP, the Nats' right-hander has held opposing hitters to a .184/.254/.248 line while posting a 2.31 ERA, 12 walks (3.09 BB/9) and 41 Ks (10.54 K/9) in 35.0 IP over which he's (4-1) with the Nats' 5-1 in those outings. Davey Johnson told reporters several times this year that when Jordan Zimmermann was shut down last season he was the Nationals' best pitcher. The rotation's better this year, but Strasburg is going as good as any of them right now. He's got two more starts to contribute all he can to the Nationals' run at the first postseason appearance by a team in the nation's capital since 1933.
Tonight in D.C. and next Wednesday in Citi Field. Enjoy Strasburg while you can.