When the Washington Nationals announced they would be shutting Stephen Strasburg down after about 160 innings, no one cared. Not many people expected it to matter, and those who did think it would matter figured the Nationals would change their minds. However, September rolled around and Washington did just what they said they would. They shut Strasburg down a month early. Now, he's ready to get back on the mound and acknowledges the shut down is still a sore subject. But he's "champing at the bit" to get back out there.
James Wagner of the Washington Post covered a phone interview with Strasburg Monday night and asked about the early shut down. Strasburg said it had been rough, but he was looking forward to the future. And a bright future it may be. With Strasburg back with no restrictions, the Nationals have every reason to believe they can repeat as division champs. But the fact that he was shut down at all still bothers Strasburg.
"It's still kind of a sore spot, to be honest," he said Monday. "I wish it didn't end up the way it did. But I can't really worry about it anymore. The season's over, and I don't think anybody else on the team is playing the ‘what if' scenario anymore. It's all about looking to the future and looking into this coming season and preparing for that."
The Nationals shut Strasburg down after his start on September 7th. He expected at least one more start, but after getting knocked around in that game (he gave up five runs on six hits in just three innings), the Nationals decided to bump up the shut down. This did not please many fans, and it certainly didn't please Strasburg. All he could do was watch as the National lost in the Division Series to the San Francisco Giants in crushing fashion.
More on the Nats: See Gio Gonzalez's name in Biogenesis ledger.
The whole purpose of Strasburg's shutdown was clear. The team did not want to put too much strain on the young ace's surgically repaired elbow. They employed a similar tactic with Jordan Zimmermann after he underwent Tommy John surgery. And much like Zimmermann had no innings limit last year, Strasburg will not be facing one this year. In fact, the Nats have said there will be no restrictions on their pitching staff at all (within reason, of course).
Strasburg underwent Tommy John surgery in September of 2010. He was able to make a return to the mound at the end of the 2011 season, but he only appeared in five games. Those five games after the return from surgery were enough to prove that he was every bit as good as he had been leading up to the injury. He posted a 1.50 ERA in those five games in 2011.
Last season, with a little less restriction and a lot more time, Strasburg started 28 games. He went 15-6 with a 3.16 ERA. It was not until near the end of the season that Strasburg's ERA even began to climb into the 3's. He was legitimately part of National League Cy Young discussions until the September shut down occurred. Now, in 2013 he will have the chance to show the world what he can do in a full season.