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Stephen Strasburg has never reached the eighth inning in 45 career starts.
Davey Johnson rarely let his starters pitch deep into games.
Despite their fantastic numbers, Nationals starters actually threw only the 18th-most innings among all big-league rotations, averaging only 5.88 innings per outing. That's because Johnson let his starter take the mound for the eighth inning only eight times in 162 games.
And all of those starts were made by either Edwin Jackson (five times) or Gio Gonzalez (three times).
There was a clear method to Johnson's use of his staff. With so many young arms in the rotation, he was exceedingly careful not to risk anyone's long-term health.
And that didn't apply solely to Stephen Strasburg, who averaged 5.69 innings per start. The same philosophy was used with Jordan Zimmermann (6.11 innings per start) and Ross Detwiler (5.59 innings per start), two more young hurlers who have yet to be freed from the shackles of pitch counts and innings limits.
Each of those starters, though, is a year older in 2013 (and in the cases of Strasburg and Zimmermann, another year removed from Tommy John surgery). That should open the door for longer starts and higher pitch counts, right?
Well, maybe to an extent. Zimmermann certainly will be allowed to surpass the 110-pitch mark on a more regular basis. (He's done it only once in his career.) But there will still be a leash of sorts on Strasburg and Detwiler, neither of whom has yet to spend an entire season in a big-league rotation.
The leash won't be quite as tight as it's been in the past. Neither Strasburg nor Detwiler will be pulled the moment he reaches 100 pitches or seven innings. But Johnson will still pay close attention to both pitchers' usage and will put more emphasis on their long-term well-being than their short-term chances for a dominant start.
In the end, the Nationals rotation should manage to compile more total innings this season, with veteran Dan Haren having averaged 6.58 innings per start over his last eight seasons and Gonzalez having now proven himself as a consistent 200-innings-per-year starter.
But don't expect a dramatic shift in philosophy from Johnson and the Nationals. They're still trying to protect their young arms for the long haul. And they've got a stacked bullpen that should be counted on to provide three or more innings of quality work every single night.
In other words, don't count on witnessing Strasurg's first career complete game anytime soon.