If Nats want to shut down ace, they've lost it, Ken Rosenthal says.
By Ken RosenthalFoxSports
Please, I can’t stand the sight of this any longer.
The sizzling 97-mph fastball. The sharp-breaking 90-mph changeup. The mind-numbing, body-bending 82-mph curveball.
Please, shut Stephen Strasburg down.
Dr. Lewis Yocum, Dr. Mike Rizzo, Dr. Scott Boras — they all know exactly what they’re doing. Strasburg surely will jeopardize his future if he pitches beyond 180 innings this season, or whatever righteous number the Washington Nationals choose.
Good gosh, Strasburg is now at 145-1/3 innings, and I flinch even looking at him, knowing that his arm might fall off at any moment.
Who could bear to watch Tuesday night when Strasburg overmatched the Atlanta Braves, the team with the third-highest-scoring offense in the National League?
Frankly, I don’t know what the Nationals are waiting for.
Shut him down.
Rizzo, the Nationals’ general manager, has said that rather than work off a set innings limit for Strasburg, he will use an eye test to determine the pitcher’s 2012 expiration date.
I gave Strasburg my own eye test on Tuesday night. I am extremely near-sighted, not to mention color-blind. My eyes never would deceive me. And I’m here to tell you, the Nationals are onto something.
The silly stat sheet shows that Strasburg allowed one run in six innings, striking out 10, walking one. He also returned from a rain delay for the first time in his career, and after a 51-minute rain interruption grew even stronger.
Fluke. Outlier. Small sample.
“I didn’t like the way he was throwing, so I wanted to see him go back out,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said.
Everyone at the postgame news conference laughed, thinking that Johnson was joking. Insensitive rubes. Strasburg, less than two years removed from Tommy John surgery, is in serious danger.
It was evident when Strasburg struck out six of his first eight hitters after the delay, starting with Martin Prado on a knee-buckling curveball.
Not that Strasburg would talk about the threat to his long-term future when a reporter asked him how he felt physically compared to earlier in the season.
“It’s a tribute to the program I’ve been on,” Strasburg said. “It’s really helped me get stronger. I think I’ve been able to refine my mechanics as the season went on.
“I feel great. I feel like I’ve got a lot more left in the tank.”
Ignore those last two sentences; Strasburg clearly doesn’t know what is good for him. Also ignore that Strasburg is now 4-0 with a 1.50 ERA in August, and that his fastball, curve and changeup all were “devastating” on Tuesday night, in the words of his teammate, shortstop Ian Desmond.
Desmond said he was surprised Strasburg came back after the rain delay.
“It showed his teammates, he wants to be there, he wants to compete, he wants to be there for his team,” the Braves’ Dan Uggla said.
No, all it showed was that Strasburg needs to be saved from himself. Honestly, I’m starting to wonder if the Nationals truly are looking out for his best interests.
If the Nats were serious about protecting Strasburg, they would have covered him in bubble wrap Tuesday night rather than risk him getting struck down by a stray rain drop.
Instead, they seemed hung up on actually allowing him to pitch.
“I know Stephen — he wants to pitch all the time,” Desmond said. “The organization, on the other hand, I didn’t know how careful they would be.”
Well, Johnson apparently made the decision to bring back Strasburg after the rain delay without looping in Rizzo and Boras, who not only is Strasburg’s agent, but also the Nationals’ self-appointed co-GM (“Rizzo and I put this team together,” Boras told the Washington Post this week, only slightly exaggerating).
Orioles owner Peter Angelos once accused Johnson of insubordination, and I now have determined that Angelos was years ahead of his time with that claim.
Johnson actually had the audacity Tuesday night to talk about how Strasburg is learning by pitching.
“He knows what he wants to do,” Johnson said. “And he’s had enough experience against good-hitting ballclubs. He knows exactly the sequence he wants to go in and where he wants to go with it.”
No, no, a thousand times no.
Mercifully, the end is almost near. Strasburg, averaging just under six innings per start, will pitch four or five more times, tops. Then, the Nationals will do the only sensible thing and rip the ball out of his right hand. If his 24 teammates don’t like it — if those ingrates think that winning the World Series actually matters — heaven help them.
“It’s funny. Nobody talks to me personally about it,” Strasburg said. “I can either scour the Internet or watch all the stuff being said on TV or I can just keep pitching . . . and watch the Golf Channel, I guess.”
Yes, Stephen, by all means, watch the Golf Channel.
The day soon will come when you will have plenty of time to rest your precious right arm, and what a fine day that will be.