There will be no innings counts for starting pitchers of the Washington Nationals in 2013. No one is coming back from Tommy John or any other surgery. For the first time, manager Davey Johnson will not have to answer questions about the Nationals rehab protocol for pitchers as Washington will enter spring training with a healthy rotation.
In 2011, it was not Johnson, but Jim Riggleman who had to deal with a pitcher returning from Tommy John surgery. Right hander Jordan Zimmerman returned to the rotation that season after suffering an elbow injury in 2009. The Nationals brass, led by General Manager Mike Rizzo and then special assistant Johnson, decided that Zimmerman would be put on a strict 160 innings pitch limit.
Zimmerman started 26 games and threw 161 innings before being shut down. He came back to pitch a full season in 2012 going 12-8 in 32 starts with 2.94 ERA.
Riggleman resigned during the 2011 season and Johnson took over as manager. Last season, it was he who had to answer questions when ace Stephen Strasburg came back from Tommy John surgery and was put on the 160 innings pitch count. After putting together a 15-8 record and helping Washington to its first NL East title, Strasburg’s season ended in early September. He was not happy about it and the Nationals brass was highly criticized, but the decision stuck.
This season all hands seem to be on deck. Washington will have Zimmerman, Strasburg, Ross Detwiler, 20 game winner Gio Gonzalez and new acquisition Dan Haren. The only thing other than injury that could break up the Nationals rotation is whether rumors linking Gonzalez and a Miami clinic which has allegedly supplied performance enhancing drugs to MLB players leads to him being suspended. Gonzalez has denied buying or taking PED’s and will be in spring training come February 14.
Without any looming innings counts or shutdowns, Johnson can focus on getting his pitchers ready and putting the rotation in order. There is no doubt that Strasburg will be the opening day starter and number one. Gonzalez will be number two. Zimmerman is most likely to follow. The only question is whether Detwiler will remain in the fourth spot with Haren taking the mound fifth.
Strasburg, Gonzalez and Zimmerman can be counted on to give Washington a chance to win every time that they take the mound. Detwiler pitched well in the post season and with a full year under his belt should be improved. Haren was once an All-Star with the Los Angeles Angels and will make the back end of the rotation stronger.
For the first time, it seems the Nationals starting rotation is set going into spring training with everyone expected to be available in September. There will be no talk of innings counts and shutdowns.
Washington arms are healthy and ready to go.