Washington Nationals' Sunday Lineup vs Reds + Davey Johnson And Mike Rizzo On Stras After Opener

Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE

Washington Nationals' manager Davey Johnson took Stephen Strasburg out after seven innings in the season opener against Miami after the Nats' right-hander had dominated Fish hitters all afternoon, prompting some complaints about the team continuing to hold him back. Not so, according to the Nationals' GM.

Davey Johnson Opening Day Postgame Transcript:

Reporter: "What allowed Stephen to be so efficient today, was he doing something specifically to accomplish that?"

Davey Johnson: "Well, I mean, most opposing clubs are going to be setting off his fastball. And they're going to try to get a good swing on that. A lot of times early in the count that's what they were doing. What did he end up with? About five or six strikeouts?"

Reporters: "Three."

Davey Johnson: "I mean, they're up there looking for something to put in play. He really didn't even -- [Pitching Coach] Steve McCatty was saying, after the first inning, 'Start these guys off with something offspeed,' but [Strasburg] really felt good about locating his fastball, and that's what he went with. He had an awful good one. I mean, he was throwing hard."

Reporter: "Because last year when teams did that to him, it seemed like that kind of bother him. Is he doing something different now to--"

Davey Johnson: "I think he's just getting a little more maturity. He felt pretty good. He was nice and calm throughout the game."

In spite of how calm he looked on the mound and the way he handled the Miami Marlins' hitters, and in spite of the fact that he rolled through the Fish, retiring 19-straight between Juan Pierre's leadoff single in the first and Giancarlo Stanton's one-out double in the seventh, Strasburg was lifted after 7.0 innings and just 80 pitches, 52 of them strikes, prompting some questions about when the 24-year-old right-hander who pitched on an innings limit last season would finally be truly "unleashed"?

As Nats' GM Mike Rizzo explained it to hosts Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier during the first episode of The Mike Rizzo Show on 106.7 the FAN in D.C. last week, he's "unleashed" now. "He's unleashed now,' Rizzo said. "Davey handled that 24-year-old starting pitcher like he would handle any 24-year-old starting pitcher that's in the same situation as Stras is. There's no limitations. There's no restrictions. And, you know, Davey's a pretty good manager, been doing it a long time, better than you two guys, better than a lot of the media people out there and he's going to handle the team the way he sees fit. And because of the limits we put on him last year, people are questioning all sorts of things, but I'm going to go with what Davey says and kind of disregard the rest of the noise."

Asked about Strasburg's efficiency in the season opener, Rizzo said, "Stras throws a lot of strikes, he pounds the strike zone and the opposing hitters know that if they get behind in the count, it's a much more difficult road to try to get a hit off of Stras. I think the report on Stephen is to try to get him early in the count and not get behind because his put-away stuff is so good. So we've seen that in the past, guys trying to get to him early in the count, he pitched to contact -- if you want to call 96 to 98 [mph] pitching to contact, I guess he was -- and guys were swinging early in the count because they didn't want to get 0-1, 0-2 on him."

• Here's the Nationals' lineup for Strasburg's second start of 2013:

• Game Time: 1:10 pm EST from Cincinnati

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