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They Keep Asking, So The Washington Nationals Keep Saying It, Stephen Strasburg Will. Be. Shut. Down.

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 20:  Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays at Nationals Park in interleague play on June 20, 2012 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 20: Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays at Nationals Park in interleague play on June 20, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
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Why haven't the Washington Nationals told Stephen Strasburg exactly what the plan is for shutting him down later this season? "There's a lot of rosters moves that I don't explain to the players and to the pitchers," D.C. GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier Wednesday on The Mike Rizzo Show. "Stras has a job to do," the Nats' general manager explained, "He needs to prepare for his starts and go about his business in a routine that he does, and to tell him a limit of a number or a date that you're going to be shut down when we don't know what that limit is or that date is, I think is not the right thing to do."

"He understands where we're at," the general manager continued, "He's heard me say it a thousand times because you guys ask it a thousand times, about the innings limit. He realizes what's going to happen. There's just no sense in putting a concrete date or number on it, because I don't know what the concrete date or number is."

"It's one of those decisions where I'm glad I don't have to be the guy that makes the decisions," Ryan Zimmerman told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Mike Wise on Tuesday afternoon, "Because I know Stephen wants to pitch, but there's so much evidence and there's a lot of information that they have that shows the year after... I mean, look at how good [Jordan] Zimmermann's doing this year after they did the same thing with him last year. The truth is I think we're going to be good here for a long time and obviously Stephen is going to be a huge part of that."

If there was any mystery remaining about what will eventually happen with the Washington Nationals' no.1 starter later this season, Nats' skipper Davey Johnson explained the situation as clearly as possible before Wednesday night's win over the New York Mets.

"Can you slow him down, save some innings, do something to keep him around late this year?" the manager was asked.

"As a dinosaur baseball man, been around a long time, handled a lot of pitchers," the 69-year-old veteran of 16 seasons as manager said, "I'm not going to treat him any differently because that would be unfair to him."

Skipping starts, or finding some way to stretch him out, Johnson said, "May look good on paper, but it would be very unfair to change what his work ethic wants him to do. He needs to pitch every fifth day. Any disruption of that, as far as I'm concerned, would lead to a possible injury. The only restriction I've been on, is I've been maybe a little quicker to hook him than I normally would to try to save him some extra innings at the end, but that decision is made by people a lot smarter than me or you or anybody in this room as far as to the welfare of the pitcher, not just for today or September but for his career with the Nationals."

"So that decision is made by smarter people than me," Johnson said, "So I'm not fighting it or whatever, when the time comes it's done. We did it with Jordan Zimmermann. I didn't hear a peep out of anybody. I know we're in a little better position this year, but it's the same situation."

So, when he reaches his limits, whatever they are, he's done?

"That's correct," Johnson said.

Strasburg will make his 19th start of 2012 Friday night in Nats Park. Through 18 starts, the 23-year-old right-hander is (10-4) with a 2.66 ERA, 2.43 FIP, 29 walks (2.49 BB/9) and 135 K's (11.57 K/9) in 105.0 IP.

[ed. note: "Don't believe the Nats? Here's what Strasburg's agent, Scott Boras, had to say during a recent MLB Network Radio interview."]:

Scott Boras: "When you have young players, to replace those players, particularly no.1 [pitchers], the only way you're going to replace them is through free agency. Because you don't have any other no.1's in the system. And when you talk about the cost of free agent pitcher that's a no.1, which may be $30M dollars over a 5-6 year period, and you have in your organization someone that you have control over for an additional four years that's going to cost you 25% of that cost, so you may be risking an $80M dollar value or something in your organization if not handled correctly for a 4-year period.

"So you have playoff innings, when do you stop? Do you get the team to the playoffs then stop? Do you pitch all the way through the playoffs? When you have someone in your locker room that the same procedure has been applied to and has been applied to successfully in [Jordan] Zimmermann, do you apply something different for Strasburg than you did for Zimmermann with the same medical advice? So as a general manager I think you're faced with a lot of considerations that go far beyond what the player's will is. And I'm real happy for Stephen Strasburg because that is his will, but the fact of the matter is he's an employee, he works under the direction of the team and it will be the ownership of the Nationals that make this decision."