Chain Reactions: Strasburg's Starts Are Numbered; A Reminder That RGIII Is A Rookie

WASHINGTON - AUGUST 10: (FILE PHOTO) Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals pitches against the Florida Marlins at Nationals Park on August 10 2010 in Washington DC. According to reports August 26 2010 Strasburg has a torn ligament that will require Tommy John elbow surgery. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Strasburg's schedule comes into focus, and a reminder that RGIII is just a rookie. Plus an all-time Redskins character calls it career.

It was a week where the Natitude was at all-time high in the Nation's Capital, RGIII finally got hit, and Neuvy ripped everyone but Slapshot.

The week also marked the end of Clinton Portis' NFL career. I know he has not played for a few years, but he is officially retiring as a Redskin Thursday.

Now, if you want to play the scoreboard game (if you are a Redskin fan, you don't): The Broncos won the trade. Champ Bailey is still going strong out in the Mile HIgh City, and why did the 'Skins feel the need to throw in a second round draft pick? Maybe Vinny in B-More could help us out with that one. Moral of the story is: never trade a shutdown corner for a running back. Hell, in this day and age, never trade for a running back, period. Sorry, MJD.

Portis, though, was the workhorse for the two Joe Gibbs playoff teams in '05 and '07. He is second all-time among the Redskins' rushing leaders. He was a devastating pass blocker. He did not thrive with off-season fitness and was known to go around his coaches to the owner's office.

He also liked to play dress up on Thursdays, Southeast Jerome was my favorite. Ultimately, though, the character I always wanted to see him dress up as was the Clinton Portis who played for the Broncos. A player that rushed for over 1,500 yards each year and averaged 5.5 yards per carry. Unfortunately, he never quite made it to DC.

In the rest of this week's Chain Reactions, we hit a couple of serious issues, including more clarity on the Strasburg shutdown timetable, and a friendly reminder that Robert Griffin III is a rookie.

Strasburg Down to His Final Outs?

The Nationals faithful that braved a 51-minute rain delay Tuesday night celebrated the kind of start that coined the word "Strasmas." The Nats ace threw 6 dominant innings, striking out 10 Braves. Strasburg is now 15-5 with an 2.85 ERA.

That is Cy Young stuff. However, the only number any fan, media member, or teammate can think about is innings pitched: currently 145.1. We are creeping closer to that 160-180 inning shutdown zone.

Prior to Wednesday night's game, Washington Manager Davey Johnson shared some more details.

"I talked a little bit about it with [general manager Mike Rizzo," Johnson said prior to the Nationals' series finale against the Braves. "We kind of worked it out, and I think it came out with off-days we would need another starter for, I think, two starts. I think it was two starts, maybe three. I thought it was two."

CSN Nationals Insider Mark Zuckerman played out the potential final start scenarios.

It would then be a question of whether the Nationals will let the right-hander make one final start at home, likely Sept. 19 against the Dodgers.

If he averages six innings per start, Strasburg would reach 175 after that outing against Los Angeles. Club officials have privately said he won't be allowed to surpass 180 innings this season.

So enjoy these starts while you can, and get ready for the national outrage regarding the Nationals to reach an all-time high once that date arrives.

Although Johnson did add this about the shutdown projection numbers.

"I don't think the innings number is cut in stone," Johnson said. "The science is not that exact. There's a little leeway there."

As I have stated over and over in this space, I support the Nationals' philosophy here, even though it is hardly a perfect science. I want them to be successful for years to come, not just in 2012.

The Nats actually have the input of Strasburg's doctors and medical records, something all these former great players and managers do not. For a long time, the pitch count theory has been skewered by old school baseball believers.

Is some of this stuff overboard? Perhaps it is, but not all precautionary change is "soft." Not in sports, and not in the rest of our daily lives for that matter. We are constantly learning new things about nutrition and the long term effects things we put into our body, for example.

Strasburg's career is going to lead the way in this research. There are others to study like Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, and Steve Avery. However, no individual is built the same, so much of this is educated speculation. And no matter how much we may agree or disagree, the Nats are all in on this plan.

Also, as has been pointed out over and over, the rest of the Nationals' staff is pretty damn good. A three-starter postseason rotation of Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, and Edwin Jackson is not too shabby. The Nats have also thrived at overcoming the injury bugs this season.

Certainly a Strasburg atop the rotation in October would make them even better, but it is not happening. Get ready for it and whatever you do, avoid Skip and Screamin' A.

A Reminder...RGIII is a Rookie

The Chicago Bears did not allow Robert Griffin III to set up and scan the field in the comfort zone he felt in Buffalo. No, the Bears hurried, hit, and confused the franchise savior and for that, the 'Skins should say thank you to Chicago.

It is better for RGIII to have these moments now before going into the regular season, especially that regular season opener at New Orleans. Just like in the previous week, let's remind everyone: it is just preseason football, so the good and bad can be deceiving.

RGIII is still learning, and is also holding back his scrambling ability in these meaningless games.

"I try to make sure I don’t rely on my legs too much," said Griffin, who added that it hasn’t been difficult for him to figure out when to run and when to throw. "I try to make it through my reads, and then if the opportunity presents itself, I will run."

We know this much: if the Skins offensive line does not improve, he will need to run. It also needs to be pointed out that RGIII has yet to have the benefit of a full strength running game.

He also appears to be working with an ultra-conservative set of plays thus far. He has not been allowed to whip it around the yard, like this week's counterpart Andrew Luck, or his backup Kirk Cousins.

Perhaps this week, with extended play into the third quarter at home, there will be more airing it out if the offensive line gives him time. This is his last dress rehearsal until the real thing, so hopefully he will have moments that remind us why the Skins sold the farm to draft him.

However, no matter what happens Saturday and when the games count, we need to remember, for better or for worse, RGIII is still just a rookie.

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