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The Nationals' outline for Stephen Strasburg

Stephen Strasburg will make his final minor league start Thursday in Buffalo, his goodbye to the minors before making his scheduled major league debut June 8 at Nationals Park against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Nationals, according to a team source, have also laid out a tentative outline for the rest of Strasburg's season.

The schedule -- which is tentative because of injuries, weather issues, etc. -- calls for the Nationals to pitch Strasburg every fifth day early in his big league tenure and then to give Strasburg more rest between starts late in the season.

Since Strasburg has been held back somewhat in the minor leagues, throwing no more than six innings per start and usually less, the Nationals plan to lean on Strasburg upon his arrival to provide a respite for their rotation. That doesn't mean Strasburg will be throwing irresponsible pitch counts or starting on short rest. But, for example, when an off day stretches the rotation's rest, Strasburg could pitch on his fifth day to allow a starter like Livan Hernandez, whom the Nationals have relied on for a high innings total, an extra day of rest.

That plan will also help Strasburg pitch at home more often and augment attendance. An example: If Strasburg pitches every fifth day to start his major league career, he'll pitch June 8, 13, 18 and 23. A Nationals off day on June 14 would typically push his start on the 18th to the 19th. But the Nationals conclude a homestand the 23rd -- so pitching him the 18th would allow him to start twice on normal rest during that homestand.

Again, any pitching rotation can be fickle, which makes buying tickets based on projection a risky prospect.

After the opening of Strasburg's big league tenure provides a breather for the Nationals' rotation, the Nationals will scale back, providing him an extra day of rest, to allow him to spend more time with the team.

Barring injury, the Nationals plan for Strasburg to pitch between 150 and 160 innings this season in the majors and minors combined. The Nationals considered -- but for all intents and purposes discarded -- the notion of pitching Strasburg out of the bullpen if they are contending late in the season, as the Tampa Bay Rays used rookie and former first overall choice David Price in 2008.

Using Strasburg out of the bullpen would allow him to make an impact deeper into the Nationals' season. At about 140 innings, he could move to the bullpen and appear in 10 games or so as something of a secret weapon. But the Nationals are certain they won't use that option for two reasons.

First, the team figures two final starts at the end of Strasburg's innings limit, when he would impact for a game for six or seven innings, would be more valuable than hoping he can make an impact late in several games for an inning or two.

Second, the Nationals have to consider the ramifications of Strasburg getting hurt coming out of the bullpen. Even if they believe it would not risk harming him -- which, as Price showed, it probably would not -- they know they would likely be roundly criticized for any injury Strasburg incurs pitching as a reliever. It is a virtual certainly all of Strasburg's innings this year will come as a starter.

The Nationals, of course, could decide to make changes to their general outline, but that's their basic plan for now. As for Tuesday, Versus will televise Strasburg's final minor league start, for Class AAA Syracuse against Buffalo, live at 1 p.m. MASN will televise it on tape delay at 7 p.m.

By Adam Kilgore  |  June 2, 2010; 7:39 PM ET
Categories:  Stephen Strasburg  
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Posted by: luccitrade | June 2, 2010 8:34 PM | Report abuse

Wise decision, imo. He's been groomed as a SP - Keep him there. If he taps out on innings before season's end, sobeit. The way Rizzo has the 40-man set, there will hopefully be pitchers with "stuff" left in the tank (JZimm, Wang, Marquis, Detwiler off the DL).

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Posted by: itkonlyyou97s | June 2, 2010 9:45 PM | Report abuse

I hadn't considered the incentive to pitch Stras on the 18th and then the 23rd. I bought tickets for the 19th already. I'm guessing they don't mess up the rotation just to get Strasburg the home date, but with the shaky back-end rotation, it might be smart to skip the #5 when possible. We'll see....

Posted by: fischy | June 3, 2010 12:52 AM | Report abuse

I like that they are taking a conservative approach. As I've noted before, priorities should be what's best for the kid's long-term health and success and for the team, not for fan convenience. (Though I'll be happy to see him on the mound any time I'm in the house, of course. Should I post my ticket schedule here? Nah. :-))

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Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 3, 2010 6:30 AM | Report abuse

Good stuff, Adam!

So far the Weather.com forecast for Tuesday looks good.

Just one thing, the last sentence you wrote should be "As for Thursday," not "As for Tuesday," because it's about his final start today and not his MLB debut on Tuesday.

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Posted by: goedefrence | June 3, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Hmmmm. So I have tickets for the 18th and the 22nd. Do I take a chance and trade my 22nd for the 23rd? Waiting until the 18th is probably too late, I'll need to do it this weekend if possible.

Decisions, decisions.

Posted by: thurminator | June 3, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

why all the over thinking and analyzing? Not talking about you Kilgore, but from the NATS front office. Just bring him up and let him do his thing.

Posted by: poeticfire | June 3, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Wise decision, imo. He's been groomed as a SP - Keep him there. If he taps out on innings before season's end, sobeit.

Posted by: BinM

Come on man, you'll be howling like everyone else when they shut him down and the Nats are 3 games out of the wildcard with a month left. The team knows it too - hence they come off with this bs about 'considering' using him out of the bullpen. They're just trying to pre-empt the outrage. Another thing - what if the Nats DID make the playoffs? They wouldn't use him there either? It's a can of worms to come out publicly and say this crap. They're always so secretive, but they've been telling us about his inning-limit with a bullhorn. There's no in between - they operate like they're paranoid and reactive.

Posted by: Brue | June 3, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

So sick of hearing about this guy -- if he's that good get him up to the MLB Level and let's see what he's got already. While I'll admit Strasburg is Major League material, the front office and the rest of the Nat org. is bush league.

Posted by: jwing14 | June 4, 2010 12:42 AM | Report abuse

They'd better tell Fox they're going to pitch him on Friday instead of Saturday because Fox picked up the Saturday the 19th game against the White Sox.

Posted by: p_chuck | June 5, 2010 11:56 PM | Report abuse

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