Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson hinted at using benched pitcher Stephen Strasburg as a pinch hitter for the remainder of the regular season and post-season. This has caused people to weigh in on the merits of using a pitcher who was shut down after reaching a 160 inning limit to save his arm for anything at all.
Only Johnson knows why he brought up the idea of using Strasburg as a pinch hitter. Maybe he did it as a joke. Maybe he is serious. Maybe he just wants Strasburg to keep his head in the game while not being able to pitch.
For a pitcher, Strasburg is a good hitter. Every member of the Nationals staff from Gio Gonzalez to Edwin Jackson takes their hitting seriously. At the moment Strasburg is batting .277 with one home run and seven runs batted in. It would be far from a stretch to use him in a pinch hitting roll even if just to lay down a sacrifice bunt.
However, I would guess that there is a one percent chance that Strasburg picks up a bat and heads to the on deck circle. The Nationals shut him down for fear of re-injuring the right elbow put together by Tommy John surgery in 2010. Why would they put him in harms way by sending him to the plate or making him run the bases?
Besides, the Nationals have plenty of players who can pinch hit. One of the team’s strengths in 2012 has been its bench. Washington can call on any number of pinch hitters from Roger Bernadina, Tyler Moore, Steve Lombardozzi and Chad Tracy. If the team needs a pitcher to lay one down Gonzalez, Jackson and Ross Detwiler are more than capable.
Bernadina and Tracy are left handed hitters. Moore is right handed. Lombardozzi can switch hit. The Nationals have options. If the team decides to start Bernadina in left field they can bring Michael Morse off of the bench. In fact, the Nationals have rotated their outfielders enough that all have some pinch hitting experience.
It is doubtful that Strasburg will pinch hit. He is too valuable a commodity to lose by injury in such a way, though it is true that Strasburg would like to contribute in some way the rest of the season. Johnson and general manger Mike Rizzo have already shown that they don’t want to risk injuring their ace right-hander.
The notion of Strasburg being used as a pinch hitter is good conversation. The situation will be monitored the rest of the year.
However, it is doubtful that Johnson will send Strasburg to the on deck circle the rest of this season.