Though the Nationals have no set date for Stephen Strasburg's shutdown, manager Davey Johnson did offer up the most-concrete clue yet today, suggesting the club will need another pitcher to make two or three starts in Strasburg's place come late-September.
"I talked a little bit about it with general manager Mike Rizzo," Johnson said prior to the Nationals' series finale against the Braves. "We kind of worked it out, and I think it came out with off-days we would need another starter for, I think, two starts. I think it was two starts, maybe three. I thought it was two."
What exactly does that mean? It seems to suggest Strasburg will make either four or five more starts this season. He's slated to pitch Tuesday in Miami, then lines up to start Sept. 2 against the Cardinals, Sept. 7 against the Marlins and Sept. 12 in New York.
It would then be a question of whether the Nationals will let the right-hander make one final start at home, likely Sept. 19 against the Dodgers.
If he averages six innings per start, Strasburg would reach 175 after that outing against Los Angeles. Club officials have privately said he won't be allowed to surpass 180 innings this season.
"I don't think the innings number is cut in stone," Johnson said. "The science is not that exact. There's a little leeway there."
Whenever the Nationals decide the time is right to shut down Strasburg, they will give the 24-year-old advance notice. Johnson said he'll likely inform the pitcher in the days leading up to his final start.
The Nationals plan to use left-hander John Lannan (who has spent the majority of the season at Class AAA Syracuse) as Strasburg's replacement for the remainder of the regular season. His starts would likely fall on Sept. 24 against the Brewers and Sept. 29 in St. Louis.