Nationals fans should enjoy Stephen Strasburg while they can -- it looks like his season is going to be a short one.
According to a Twitter post by Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, Washington manager Jim Riggleman said on the radio today that Strasburg will pitch every five days, not every five games. The Nationals will juggle the rotation around off days to keep their young star on regular rest.
Back in spring training, Riggleman told Kilgore that the Nationals' strict policy to protect young pitchers is that nobody will be allowed to pitch more than 120 percent of the innings they threw the previous year, no matter where those innings were pitched. Kilgore calculated then that between his college season, the Arizona Fall League and the Instructional League, Strasburg logged about 132 innings last season, which would make his maximum this season 158.
After seeing today's news, I sat down with a calendar. Strasburg burned 55 1/3 innings in the minors before being called up and seven more in his debut. That leaves him with about 96 more innings to pitch this year. If he were to pitch seven innings every time he started (he won't, but let's just take a best-case scenario -- or maybe a worst-case scenario, depending on your perspective), that's 12 more starts.
In that case, Strasburg would run out of innings Aug. 7, nearly two months before the end of the season.
If Strasburg is filling seats and keeping fans' attention on the Nationals, there will surely be a lot of pressure on the team not to shelve their main attraction. Riggleman managed the Cubs during Kerry Wood's rookie year, and has always felt guilty that he might have overworked Wood and caused the arm problems that derailed his career (it should be noted that Wood has said he does not blame Riggleman).
Could be a tough call for the Nationals, but you have to think their top priority will be protecting their investment long-term.
-- David Andriesen
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