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Nationals pick Stephen Strasburg as Opening Day starter

Mar 21, 2012, 10:35 AM EDT

Stephen Strasburg AP

Stephen Strasburg was impressive in his five-inning start against the Mets yesterday and today the Nationals announced that he’ll get their Opening Day assignment versus the Cubs.

It will be the first Opening Day start for Strasburg, who wasn’t called up until June in 2010 and missed the beginning of last season recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery.

Strasburg returned to make five starts with a 1.50 ERA and 24/2 K/BB ratio down the stretch last year, looking every bit like his dominant pre-surgery self.

Manager Davey Johnson also revealed that Gio Gonzalez will follow Strasburg in the rotation by starting Game 2, but hasn’t said yet how he’ll arrange Jordan Zimmernan and Edwin Jackson. Chien-Ming Wang or John Lannan will be the Nationals’ fifth starter.

  1. royhobbs39 - Mar 21, 2012 at 10:52 AM

    I guess you don’t want to show your Wang that early. It may still be too cool outside.

    • southpaw2k - Mar 21, 2012 at 11:40 AM

      They’d be risking shrinkage if Wang hangs out when it’s cold outside.

  2. mianfr - Mar 21, 2012 at 11:28 AM

    Eh, I don’t really like this.

    First of all, Opening Day is more or less a guaranteed sellout each year anyway, so why blow Strasmas (another likely sellout) on this?

    Secondly, he’s just going to hit his innings limit earlier in this season now, making it very difficult to project him fitting into any October plans the team might find itself having to make.

    I think it would have made much more sense to lead off with Gio Gonzalez, the pricey trade acquisition, and then announce Strasburg as starter number five due to innings concerns.

    • El Bravo - Mar 21, 2012 at 11:37 AM

      Is he still on an innings limit? Also, I think pitching your best starter first is still commonplace and it also is statement as to who the team’s “ace” will be for the upcoming season. I don’t have a problem with this move and really didn’t expect any other order for their rotation.

      • nategearhart - Mar 21, 2012 at 11:46 AM

        I bet he’ll be on a “loose” limit, Bravo. I’m guessing they’ll be a little more gentle as he approaches 200 innings, but I doubt they have a set number under that.

      • mianfr - Mar 21, 2012 at 11:57 AM

        160 Max.

      • El Bravo - Mar 21, 2012 at 1:07 PM

        I agree that these are good points, but I’m still starting the Strasburger opening day. He’s the ace, play him first. That simple in my mind. They can stretch/limit those innings as the year goes on w/ their pretty darn good bullpen. Also, considering the division, if they DO make the playoffs then that is playing plenty above everyone’s expectations and thus that is a very successful year for them. Asking for more is just cocky. I mean, c’mon, if they finish above both the Marlins and Phillies, I’ll poop my pants. I honestly think the Braves will beat them out too, but I’m clearly biased. Not that the Bravos have done ANYTHING this Spring to solidfy this belief…

      • natstowngreg - Mar 21, 2012 at 1:42 PM

        Could say I’m looking forward to you pooping your pants. But not really.

    • nategearhart - Mar 21, 2012 at 11:39 AM

      You make some decent points, but I think the biggest consideration is that the Nationals are done rebuilding and are 100% going for it starting this year. In that case, they should be more worried about Strasburg’s ability to help them win than to fill the ballpark.

      • mianfr - Mar 21, 2012 at 12:04 PM

        Right, and if your goal is to just get to the playoffs or just to get close to the playoffs, this makes sense, but if you want more than a participation ribbon, you’re going to need Strasburg making starts in the postseason.

      • natstowngreg - Mar 21, 2012 at 1:56 PM

        It doesn’t make sense to shut Strasburg down for several weeks, then expect him to be in peak form in late May or early June. Better to get as much out of Strasburg as they can, to put the team in position to contend in September.

      • mianfr - Mar 21, 2012 at 2:42 PM

        But you can have both is what I’m saying. You don’t need to shut him down for a few weeks, just to make him your “fifth” starter (which doesn’t mean anything–no one is arguing he isn’t the best pitcher on the team) to get the extra days off over the course of the season to stretch him out long enough to make it worthwhile.

        Again, if you think the Nats are going to win 85 games then it doesn’t matter; they’ll miss the playoffs and you can allocate your Strasburg starts any way you want. But if you want him in the postseason that you expect to get to, then you really need to do some fine-tuning.

    • jimbo1949 - Mar 21, 2012 at 3:28 PM

      “First of all, Opening Day is more or less a guaranteed sellout each year anyway, so why blow Strasmas (another likely sellout) on this?”
      Nats open in Chicago. Gonzales figures to open in DC.

  3. dcfan4life - Mar 21, 2012 at 11:52 AM

    Also guys you have to remember Strasburg is coming off Tommy John surgery, which is known to make your arm stronger. He also throws his fastball now around 95, not 100. These changes should help him go deeper into the year. I expect him to still be on a pitch count, primarily to protect him and the fact that the Nationals have such a deep good young bullpen they can afford to lift a starter after 6 strong innings. This is the right move as this team continues in the right direction.

  4. joeflaccosunibrow - Mar 21, 2012 at 1:38 PM

    Please stop pimping your blog on this site. You do it every day. If your page hits are not going up, try something else.

  5. joeflaccosunibrow - Mar 21, 2012 at 1:39 PM

    The news that Strasburg is the opening day starter is about as earth-shattering as the sun will rise in the east…

  6. vanmorrissey - Mar 21, 2012 at 7:21 PM

    So much for one of the bloggers on this site who two months ago stated it would be a good idea for him to start in the rotation in June due to the inning limit. Right, so much for that. As stated at the time, you can limit his innings during the year but the fans pay to see him and want to see him opening day at home. Case closed.

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