It is not what Stephen Strasburg wanted to hear, but it appears the decision has been made.
Fresh off an outstanding bounceback performance, where Strasburg subdued the world champion St. Louis Cardinals for six innings, manager Davey Johnson announced postgame how many games Strasburg would pitch the rest of the season.
“I think two starts, unless I let him pitch 10 (innings) in the next one out, which I am not going to,” Johnson confirmed. “So I think his last start will be on (Sept.) 12th.”
Later in the clubhouse, Strasburg said he would work very hard to win every game he pitches going forward, but he wasn’t going to be told to shut down without having his say with his manager.
“I am just focusing on the next start,” Strasburg said. “That is all I can really focus on right now, but we are going to have to have a sit down and talk here real soon.”
“I am going to fight with him to the end. That is all I got to say.”
General manager Mike Rizzo said he realizes this is not news that Strasburg wanted to hear, but that the franchise was making a “developmental decision.”
“We have taken that out of his hands,” Rizzo said.
Even though Strasburg said he will fight Johnson on the decision, Rizzo believes his flame-throwing right-hander will ultimately understand the reasoning.
“I don’t think he’s going to fight me on it. I know he’ll be unhappy. He’s an ultimate competitor,” Rizzo said.
But what if the Nationals are shutting down Strasburg as he reaches the prime of his season? What if Strasburg is getting it all together at the right time, maturing as a pitcher during the most critical moment of the season?
On Sunday, it appeared Strasburg made another step forward, especially after a difficult 9-0 loss at Miami in which he gave up seven runs (five earned) in just five innings. It was only his sixth loss in 21 decisions this season.
But against the Cardinals, Strasburg went six innings, allowed two hits, no runs and struck out nine. He did not record a decision because the Cardinals rallied after his departure. The Nationals eventually won the game 4-3.
“I really wanted to go out there and use all my pitches, not necessarily use one like I did last outing,” Strasburg said. “It seemed to work a lot better.”
Strasburg said his postgame meeting with Kurt Suzuki and pitching coach Steve McCatty after the loss in Miami might have been a big turning point.
“Kurt has been around the league a long time and (McCatty) been around the game a long time,” Strasburg said. “I am still very new to the pro game. I wanted to talk to them and let them know what I was thinking. They had a lot of good things to say. I really just wanted to go out there and pitch a little bit differently.
“The bottom line is I wanted to go into the game and not let guys steal on me at will. So, I think that was a big adjustment this time.”
Strasburg continues to make steps in the right direction this season. Now, it appears he has just two more steps to take before his season wraps up.