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Stephen Strasburg ready for Chapter 3

At some point, the Washington Nationals will remove any extra restrictions from Stephen Strasburg, and with his towering frame and relentless pace he will likely become the kind of pitcher who throws 120 pitches and mows down batters deep into games. For now, with his third start arriving Friday, he is a 21-year-old phenom whose arm must be protected.

Because the Nationals will not push Strasburg, his efficiency will determine how long he can affect the game. The person least concerned with the rules that apply to him may be Strasburg himself.

"I'm not going to change the way I pitch," Strasburg said. "If they feel like it's time to take me out of the game, they're going to take me out. I'm going to go out there and give it everything I have as long as I can."

The Nationals have a strict innings limit on Strasburg for the season, and every start his endurance will likely decide when he comes out far more than his performance. Strasburg, like in his last start against the Cleveland Indians, will be on a pitch count of roughly 100.

"It's not a hard-and-fast number," Manager Jim Riggleman said. "If it's a situation where he could finish an inning for us and he's up around that number and exceeded it, I think we'd be okay with that."

The Nationals will also limit Strasburg's innings in each start. Strasburg has yet to pitch into the eighth inning this season in either the minors or majors, and if somehow Strasburg throws seven innings using a modicum of pitches, the Nationals will be hesitant to let him go further.

"That's a barrier we may cross at some point," Riggleman said. "We're being very cautious. [Strasburg could] go out there for the ninth. But there's reasons to not do it, so we're not doing it."

Strasburg has become a phenomenon largely because of his 22 strikeouts in just 12 1/3 innings. It has been suggested, though, that Strasburg would be better off by inducing more groundball outs early in the count, therefore keeping his pitch count low and allowing him to stay in the game longer. Strasburg, again, does not take that into consideration.

"I haven't thought about any of those stats at all," Strasburg said. "The only thing I'm worried about is winning. That's what everybody wants to do here. It's not going to say much if you go out there and have a bunch of strikeouts and you end walking a bunch of guys."

Said Riggleman: "I think he's just throwing his pitches."

Strikeouts could be harder to rack up for Strasburg. His opponent, the Chicago White Sox, have struck out 317 times, fewest in the majors leagues.

The Nationals have won only one game so far in their road trip -- the game in Cleveland that Strasburg himself started. Even if Luis Atilano can snap the skid today, the Nationals will be in need of momentum. Strasburg is the perfect tonic for that, and not only because of his dominance.

The Nationals have pounded 11 hits and committed no errors in eight of their 64 games -- including both of Strasburg's starts. Strasburg's crisp pitching style -- an umpire had to insist he slow down his warm-up pitches during his first start -- keeps the defense alert.

"He brings energy to the ball club," rookie shortstop Ian Desmond said.

The Nationals expect another large crowd for Strasburg's start, but as of Thursday afternoon, ample tickets are remaining, a team spokesman said. The crowd will surely dwarf a typical Nationals Park game, and his drawing power provides an extra buzz.

"I think it's a beautiful thing," center fielder Nyjer Morgan said. "It gives us a chance to really come out and shine. When this kid pitches, they're coming to see him. But there are still going to be 40, 50,000 people, plus you got the whole nation watching. It's going to bring extra pizzazz to your game. You feel the energy. You feed off the energy."

By Adam Kilgore  |  June 17, 2010; 12:41 PM ET
Categories:  Stephen Strasburg  
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Next: Game 67 discussion thread: Nationals at Tigers



Posted by: 37thandK | June 17, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

More like, "Welcome to 37th and KKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK"

Posted by: futbolclif | June 17, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Despite the panicky announcements, the Nationals will prove once again tomorrow that even on a nearly sold-out weeknight, Nationals Park is easy to get to from anywhere in the metro area.

Looking forward to some serious energy in the building!

Posted by: LetTeddyWin_com | June 17, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

"It has been suggested, though, that Strasburg would be better off by inducing more groundball outs early in the count, therefore keeping his pitch count low and allowing him to stay in the game longer."

Nice in theory, not so much in practice when the team behind you leads the majors in errors (again).

Posted by: slewis1 | June 17, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Has there been any word on if fans will be able to hang the K signs for each strikeout or is that still against the rules? If I hang a K sign do I risk getting thrown out of the park?

Posted by: tbone41 | June 17, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Go Ahead...lift his pitch ceiling and let him throw his arm off. The sooner he is back here in Syracuse doing a rehab stint the better for me!

You plan long term for such a valuable commodity. The Nats are right to be careful with him and, frankly, I would hold the line on his pitch count for a few games now.

Posted by: Upstate_Dem | June 17, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

At some point, SS is going to struggle. People need to prepare for a bad outing or two....and need to make sure that we don't jump off a cliff with worry or over-reaction

Posted by: Bious | June 17, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Chapter one says you love him,
You love him with all your heart

Chapter two you tell him,
You never, never, never, never, ever wanna part

In chapter three remember,
The meaning of his stance

In chapter four you break up
But you give him just one more chance

Oh I wonder wonder who, be-doooo who
Who wrote the book of Stras


Okay, sorry. Just had to get that off my chest. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 17, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Kid K caught by Hall of Famer Pudge Rodriquez? Ya gotta love it..

Posted by: wewintheylose | June 18, 2010 4:45 AM | Report abuse

The Nationals have flattened out.

Against the big money teams early on, the Nationals were competitive then have fallen apart against some so-so clubs.

The Nationals are a different team when Strasburg pitches and Rodriguez catches.

When Ivan is out of the lineup and/or another starter is on the mound, this club looks lost.

Posted by: RoyHobbs4 | June 18, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

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