VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals question for this spring is whether Bryce Harper will make the opening day roster.
The question for later this year will be about the team's other huge young star.
How many innings will they let Stephen Strasburg throw, and would they really shut him down in September if they're in a pennant race (as they expect to be)?
The answers, according to general manager Mike Rizzo: don't know yet, and absolutely yes.
Rizzo said Tuesday that while people have assumed that Strasburg will be limited to 160 innings -- that's what they allowed Jordan Zimmermann to throw in a similar situation last year -- the actual number won't be determined until later in the season.
"[Manager Davey Johnson] has absolutely no limits on how many innings or how many pitches [Strasburg can throw]," Rizzo said. "Davey's going to use his expertise."
That said, Rizzo guaranteed that Strasburg won't pitch a full season in 2012. He said it's unrealistic to expect that, since he pitched just 44 1/3 innings between the major leagues and minor leagues last year, when he was coming back from Tommy John surgery.
"We don't want to overpitch him," Rizzo said. "He will be shut down during the season at some point."
Exactly what that point is, Rizzo said, will be determined by what they see from Strasburg. Last year, Zimmermann's final start was on Aug. 28.
Of course, last year the Nationals were 22 1/2 games out of first place by that point. This year, they expect to be much closer to the top.
Strasburg seems to be a little more relaxed this spring, although he is still ultra-quiet and reserved. He was scheduled to spend part of Tuesday filming a commercial that will air this summer in the Washington area.