With Strasburg mowing down opponents and the Nats postseason-bound, Strasburg’s year was clipped short due to an innings cap. The Nationals said it was to protect Strasburg’s health, since he was coming back from Tommy John surgery, but it looked more like a way to get a lot of people angry. Not only were Washington fans robbed of watching Strasburg down the stretch, but the Nationals were also upset in the first round of the playoffs in a year in which it looked like they were strong enough to go all the way.
Now, the Nationals’ brass is being quick to say that Strasburg will not be under such a limit this season — well, sort of.
“To say there’s no restrictions really means, ‘Hey, we’d like him to pitch 200 innings,’ ” Nationals vice president of player development Bob Boone told USA Today. “But you’re not gonna say no restrictions like you might have on Steve Carlton, who would throw 320 innings. You’re not gonna do that.
“There’s always restrictions, but the meaning is, ‘We’re not gonna shut him down after 160 innings.’ “
Boone said Strasburg’s in-game pitch count would be limited, and his innings count would still be watched, even if he is on a longer leash than last year.
While the Nationals look smart for saying up front that Strasburg won’t be subjected to the impending doom of an early benching this year, even leaving open the possibility that they’ll again start meddling with one of the best pitchers in the game has to have fans nervous. Strasburg went 15-6 with a 3.16 ERA and 197 strikeouts in 159 1/3 innings last year, following a skipped year after a rookie campaign of 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA and 92 strikeouts in just 68 innings pitched. The Greater D.C. area is still waiting for someone to take the training wheels off the kid.
Nationals management will probably get the stink eye on this one for a while, but then again, the Steve Carlton reference had to help.