Forget about those plans to try to stretch out Stephen Strasburg's remaining innings through late-September. The Nationals have decided to keep the rookie ace on a regular schedule coming out of the All-Star break and ride him until he reaches his innings limit for the season, even if that occurs in late-August.
Manager Jim Riggleman announced this afternoon that Strasburg will start the Nats' first game coming out of the break (July 16 at the Marlins). He'll then stay on a regular, five-game schedule, just like everyone else in the rotation.
"The whole thought early-on was that we would stretch him out, with [extra] days between quite often, so that he would pitch through September," Riggleman said. "We've decided not to do that, to just pitch him. And when the innings are done, they're done. If that falls at the end of August or early September, that will be it."
Strasburg, whose combined innings count between the majors and minors sits at 92 entering tonight's start against the Giants, will be limited to about 160 total innings by season's end.
So Strasburg's scheduled starts for the next month look like this...*
July 16 at Marlins
July 21 at Reds
July 27 vs Braves
Aug. 1 vs Phillies
(*Please remember, as always, that these dates are tentative and can change because of weather, injuries and other unforeseen circumstances.)
So, what's the reason for the change in plans? As Riggleman explained, this is more about the effect this has on the rest of the clubhouse than it does on Strasburg.
"They want to win ballgames," the manager said. "And I think if we don't send out our best right on there early those first two days, then we're sending the wrong message to our ballclub. We want to win. Our players want to win. I think we need to send a message that we're going to try to finish up strong this weekend as best we can and open up as strong as we can after the break."
Thus, Livan Hernandez will follow Strasburg in Florida next weekend. The remaining three slots have been determined, but Riggleman said he doesn't want to reveal those yet in case the club decides to make any changes.