To avoid injury, the Washington Nationals will be placing an innings limit on Stephen Strasburg when he joins the major league club. As we already reported, that limit is somewhere in the neighborhood of 150-160 innings. Earlier reports from the Nationals organization seemed to indicate that there might be some wiggle room in that limit, but now it seems that the limit might actually be shrinking.
In a radio interview, Nationals President Stan Kasten said the organization would stand by that limit, even if the club is in the middle of a pennant chase. From DC Sports Bog:
"Now, we may do things along the way. We may skip a start. We may keep his innings lower if we see that happening. I don't know what else we might do to manage the number, but we have a number in our head based on all the experience we can put together, and we're not going to go past it. We're not going to ruin, or take a chance at ruining, a 21 or 22 year old."
There might be some initial backlash from fans who are dying to see Strasburg pitch, and would love to make the playoffs, but this is the right call by the organization.
Look at what the Tampa Bay Rays did two seasons ago with with David Price, another top pitching prospect and number one overall pick. Despite being in the thick of a playoff race after a number of painful losing seasons (sound familiar?), they didn't force Price into a regular starting job when he was called up towards the end of the season. They decided instead to use him out of the bullpen. It kept his innings down and kept his arm intact. Two years later he is one of the best starters in baseball.
Stephen Strasburg's biggest contributions to the organization will not come this year, but in the Septembers and Octobers (hopefully) in the years to come. While it may sting to see a player with such a tangible impact sitting in the bullpen for the last month of the season, this is excellent foresight by the Nationals brass.