Johnson: Strasburg likely has two to three starts left

As the Nationals were flying back from Miami last night, Davey Johnson had a brief chat with Stephen Strasburg.

"You've got a few more to go," Johnson told his ace, in an effort to reassure Strasburg that his next start won't be his last.

Johnson said today that Strasburg will make two to three more starts this season, meaning his final outing of 2012 will likely come either on Sept. 7 at home against the Marlins or Sept. 12 at the Mets.

strasburg sunset throwing sidebar.jpgGeneral manager Mike Rizzo has said all along that he will be the one to make the decision on when to shut Strasburg down, and he'll do it based on the "eye test," taking a number of factors into account. But Johnson said today the Nationals have already mapped out when Strasburg will make his final appearance of the season.

"(It's) a pretty firm plan," Johnson said.

That plan could obviously be tweaked over the next couple weeks based on Strasburg's workload or the weather. If Strasburg does end up making three more starts and there's a rainout over this next 14-day stretch in which the Nats play every day, his final outing could come against the Braves in Atlanta on Sept. 14.

Other notes from Johnson's pregame session with reporters:

* Johnson said he was happy Bryce Harper got thrown out of last night's game, because it served as a teaching moment for the 19-year-old outfielder. Johnson said he thanked first base umpire C.B. Bucknor for ejecting Harper, although he also gave Bucknor an earful just as a way to show his support for his player.

* Kurt Suzuki hit his first homer as a National last night, but that wasn't a surprise to Johnson, who has seen Suzuki start to progress at the plate lately. Suzuki has been putting in a lot of work with hitting coach Rick Eckstein, and Johnson feels that time has been paying off.

"He's in a good place right now," Johnson said.

The Nationals had their team photo day today, and a large ownership contingent turned out for the pictures. Nearly the entire front row of seats was filled with front office personnel in suits, which Johnson pointed out was different than most team pictures he's been a part of.

"We had the honchos there," Johnson said with a laugh. "I'm not used to that one."

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