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Stephen Strasburg is expected to pitch about 160 innings this season.
Rizzo made it clear the club will not deviate from its original plan to have Strasburg open the season on schedule, pitch every fifth day and then be shut down once he reaches his limit of roughly 160 innings.
"There's not going to be a whole lot of tinkering going on," Rizzo said. "We're going to run him out there until his innings are done, and then stop him from pitching."
That would fall in line with the schedule the Nationals used last year on Jordan Zimmermann, who was also coming back from elbow ligament replacement surgery. The right-hander wound up making 26 starts and totaling 161 1/3 innings before getting shut down following his final outing on Aug. 26.
Some had suggested the Nationals, who hope to be in a pennant race come September, might find a creative way to prolong Strasburg's season, either by having him open the year late or have starts skipped along the way.
Rizzo, though, has no intention of making that kind of dramatic alteration to the young ace's schedule.
"He's a young pitcher that's still learning how to pitch in the big leagues," the GM said. "I think it's unfair for him to get him ramped up in spring training, start the season on a regular rotation, then shut him down or skip him. All of those guys, we're going to make them comfortable, regular rotation, regular reps and just take it from there. I think we're deep enough that we can do that."
Indeed, one of the primary reasons the Nationals stocked themselves with so many extra starting pitchers this winter was to ensure they would have enough healthy arms to compensate for Strasburg's innings limit, not to mention the typical progression for fellow young rotation mates like Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson.
"They're all young enough that I think we have to err on that side," Rizzo said. "I don't want to reinvent the wheel. We're going to be as careful as we can with everybody. We're not going to discuss six-man rotations, or not starting him until a month later, just to get him through a season."
Strasburg may not be a fan of the program, but he said Sunday he would adhere to whatever plan the club has in place for him.
"I don't want to go out there and say, 'Oh, I know they're going to take me out in this inning because I've thrown this many innings this year,'" he said. "I'm going to go out until they take the ball out of my hands."