The Washington Nationals have planned for the shut down of pitcher Stephen Strasburg since last winter. The team did so knowing exactly where they would be at the end of the 2012 season.
General manager Mike Rizzo and manger Davey Johnson knew last fall that Strasburg was going to pitch around 160 innings this season. They also knew that their ball club would be headed for the post season without him. With this knowledge they spent the off season putting their pitching staff together. Their plan was simply bringing seven starting pitchers to spring training.
The Nationals knew that they already had four quality starters in Strasburg, John Lannan, Ross Detwiler and Jordan Zimmerman. They hoped that Chien Ming Wang could bounce back and vie for a rotation spot as well. This would give them five experienced major league pitchers. But the Nats knew that they needed a staff ace and one more arm to pick up the slack when Strasburg’s season ended.
The team went out and traded for Oakland Athletics left-hander Gio Gonzalez with plans to make him the ace at season’s end. They also signed free agent right-hander Edwin Jackson. This gave them the seven arms they needed.
In spring training the Nationals penciled in Strasburg, Gonzalez and Zimmerman as locks to be in the rotation on opening day. Then they let Lannan, Jackson, Detwiler and Wang battle it out for the other two spots. The team surprised some by sending Lannan down to Triple A. Washington left spring training with six starters. When Wang suffered an injured hip and was sent down to the minors Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmerman, Jackson and Detwiler were left to fill out the starting rotation.
The Nationals knew whoever they sent down would be called up in September to take Strasburg’s place. This is exactly the case as Lannan is now on the roster and Wang has returned from the disabled list. When Strasburg reaches his pitch limit Lannan will take his spot if the team decides to stay with a five man rotation. Lannan has more big league experience than Strasburg. The bright lights won’t bother him at all. If Wang is healthy and the team has clinched a playoff spot he may get some late season starts as well.
The Washington Nationals planned for the shutdown of Stephen Strasburg knowing exactly where they would be this fall.