Stephen Strasburg Shutdown Coming: Mike Rizzo

The Washington Nationals are leading the National League East by 4½ games as of Thursday morning, and have the best record in the National League. Barring a complete collapse, they seem headed to the postseason for the first time since they moved to Washington (in fact, the first time since 1981, when they were the Montreal Expos).

But they’ll have to do it without their best pitcher, Stephen Strasburg; the decision to shut him down has already been made. Pedro Gomez:

The decision whether the National League East-leading Washington Nationals will shut down prized starter Stephen Strasburg has apparently been made. The when is all that remains.

General manager Mike Rizzo told ESPN on Wednesday that he alone will decide when Strasburg’s All-Star 2012 season will end and that it’s not necessarily at the 160-inning mark that has been talked about so often.

“There is no magic number,” Rizzo said. “It will be the eye test. (Manager) Davey (Johnson) won’t decide and ownership won’t decide. It will be the general manager and that’s me.”

It doesn’t make a lot of sense to do this; other possible methods of limiting Strasburg’s innings could work, including more days between starts or shutting him down after a playoff spot is clinched. But Rizzo is resolute:

As for those thinking Strasburg could be given a few weeks or a month off and then return in, say, September, Rizzo says don’t count on that happening.

“When it happens, Stephen will not pitch again until spring training (in 2013),” he said. “We tried something similar with [Jordan] Zimmermann last year and he just could not get going again. We won’t make the same mistake.”

Meanwhile, Rizzo might have a fight on his hands:

“I said it recently, they’ll have to rip the ball out of my hand,” Strasburg said Wednesday night, “and I mean it.”

This story is likely to get more interesting as the season continues. Stay tuned.

For more on the Nationals, please visit Federal Baseball and SB Nation DC.

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