The Washington Nationals believe they have hit upon a plan that will keep their ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg on the mound throughout the pennant chase and postseason, while also protecting his multimillion dollar right arm. All Strasburg has to do is agree to it.
"We want Stephen to pitch left-handed," said Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo. "We are confident a pitcher of his natural ability can be more than effective with his off hand."
Before the season began, the Nationals vowed to limit Strasburg's innings to protect the right elbow that underwent Tommy John surgery in 2010. Yet it's unlikely team management expected the Nationals to have the best record in baseball or that their protective approach would seriously hurt the franchise's first bid at a World Series title thanks to willingly losing the staff ace in early September. Many have criticized Rizzo for sticking to the plan.
"I don't think you change your decisions just because circumstances change," said Rizzo. "Medical professionals back me up on this. For example, every day I put on SPF 100 sunscreen, regardless of whether or not it's sunny or rainy or winter or even if it's nighttime. How could I look at myself in the mirror if I protected a great young man like Stephen Strasburg less than I do my own skin?"
Strasburg said he will make a decision soon.
"I want to keep pitching my normal way," he said. "I feel perfectly fine and we have a chance to do something special this year. I'm not sure which is the dumbest idea: the one to shut me down with a championship in reach, this one to have me pitch left-handed or Rizzo's idea earlier this year when he asked me to cap all of my pitches at 70 mph to save my arm."
Rizzo stressed that "my dumbest decision was easily giving Jayson Werth $126 million. The fact that people are forgetting that to talk about Strasburg is baffling to me."