“It has its toll not only on Stephen, but on the rest of the guys on the club. It’s a distraction.” Davey Johnson, on the media circus surrounding Strasburg’s shut down.
Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson announced Saturday morning that Stephen Strasburg, the undisputed ace of the Nats starting rotation, will not pitch again this season. Strasburg was scheduled to pitch next Wednesday for his final start under the team’s imposed innings limit, but due to media scrutiny and Strasburg’s own internal pressure to succeed, Johnson decided to step up the timetable and end the right-hander’s season one start shorter than previously planned.
“Well, I just told Stephen that his year is over,” Johnson began his press conference before Saturday’s game against the Miami Marlins. “He’s had a great year. I know what he’s going through for actually the last couple weeks now. The media hype on this has been unbelievable. I feel it’s hard for him as it would be for anybody to get mentally totally committed in a ballgame. And he’s reached his innings limit that was set two years ago, so we can get past this and talk about other things for a change.”
Nats GM Mike Rizzo addressed the media after Johnson from the Nats Park press box. “After yesterday’s start, we just figured that mentally and physically, Stephen looked like he was fatigued,” Rizzo said. “We decided, what’s the difference of 159 1/3 innings or 163 or 164 or 165 1/3 innings? We said let’s pull the plug today and move on with the season and try and finish the season off positive.”
Strasburg’s first season post-Tommy John surgery ends with a 15-6 record and 3.16 ERA, with 2.71 walks per nine innings and 11.13 strikeouts per nine in 28 starts, covering 159 1/3 innings. John Lannan will take Strasburg’s place in the rotation against the Mets in New York next week.
“I know he’s been struggling with it for weeks,” Johnson said. “I know he doesn’t sleep good thinking about it. Shoot, I’ve heard so much advice from every ex-pitcher, every guru on the matter.”
“If you’re not there 100 precent mentally,” Johnson continued, “I mean, he’s a gifted athlete, his velocity could still be there, but I don’t see the crispness, I don’t see the ball jumping out of his hand. But it’s more… I’m a firm believer that this game is 99.5% mental and he’s only human and I don’t know how anybody can be totally mentally concentrating on the job at hand with the media hype on this thing and I think that we would be risking more sending him back out.”
“It would have been nice for it end on a positive note,” Rizzo said. “But he’s had a terrific season. You couldn’t ask for anything more coming off his first season on Tommy John surgery. He got us to where we’re at right now. He’s a huge part of where we’re at right. He’s one of the major contributors to the first-place ball club.
“We’ve got a lot of bright and happy days ahead of us watching Stephen Strasburg pitch. This is something that he’s going to have to accept that it’s on his best behalf, and we’re going to move on from here.