Blog Entry

The moment of the season

Posted on: June 9, 2010 1:25 am
See what happens when you push the envelope just a little?

See what happens when, as Stephen Strasburg said, you give him "a little bit longer of a leash"?

What happens is the seventh inning Tuesday night. What happens is the inning that turned Strasburg's debut from outstanding to stunning. What happens is the moment of the baseball season so far, ahead of two perfect games and another no-hitter, ahead of Jason Heyward's opening day home run, ahead (yes) of Armando Galarraga and Jim Joyce.

The seventh inning was three more strikeouts, giving Strasburg 14. It was a sellout crowd standing and chanting, "Let's go Strasburg!" It was a 99 mph fastball for strikeout No. 14, with Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty simply clapping his hands, along with the 40,315 fans.

"That was one of those memorable innings," Riggleman said later. "You just don’t get that many of those."

Later on this season, perhaps even on Sunday in Cleveland, Riggleman is sure to drive us crazy by pulling Strasburg early. Later on this season, even if Strasburg helps get the Nationals truly into the pennant race, the team is determined to shut him down if he reaches a predetermined innings limit (thought to be about 100 for his major-league season).

Maybe that makes sense. Maybe it doesn't. But it's going to happen. Scott Boras, Strasburg's agent, admitted Tuesday that he and Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo discussed exactly those limits during last summer's negotiations after the Nats took Strasburg with the first pick in the draft.

Boras strongly believes that young pitchers need this kind of protection. He points to Dwight Gooden and Larry Dierker, and he says that pitchers who throw too many pitches at 21 run too high a risk of getting hurt and ruining careers by the time they get to 30.

"We want these performers to be elite as long as they can," Boras said.

Argue with him if you want. Point out that pitchers need to be pushed a little, allowed to push the limits a little, to become the best they can.

But understand this isn't an argument that you're going to win. The decisions have already been made, and the Nationals are going to do this Boras' way.

Even Tuesday, Riggleman admitted that he was never going to let Strasburg's pitch count hit 100. He admitted that he thought about pulling Strasburg after six innings and 81 pitches, before allowing him seven innings and 94.

"He could have gone 195," Riggleman said. "We'll make sure we don't do that."

There will be days when Strasburg shows frustration with the limits, as he did the night at Triple-A Syracuse when the Nats allowed him just 52 pitches in five innings.

Tuesday, they allowed him seven innings, and it's great that they did.

Great for him. Great for us.


One more thing about Strasburg's debut: The Nationals decided not to give him a scouting report on his first-night opponent, the Pirates.

They'll leave that for later.

Tuesday, Strasburg just let catcher Pudge Rodriguez call the pitches. Including, as Rodriguez said with a grin, "one changeup I shouldn't have called."

That would be the one Delwyn Young hit for a fourth-inning home run.

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